As a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E. Street Band, drummer Max Weinberg has a long history of playing song requests—as the Boss always devotes time in his set to look at into the audience for signs that fans have written songs on.
That’s something the band has been doing for more than 50 years, when they first started playing together on the Jersey Shore.
“It could be hits, covers or just deep cuts that you haven’t played in years,” Weinberg said. “That’s why you need to have sort of an encyclopedic knowledge of songs because you never know what could be asked for.”
Weinberg has taken this concept even further, and for years has been touring with what he calls, Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, a concert of classic rock ’n’ roll hits, chosen by completely by the audience. This could include anything from the Beatles to Steppenwolf to the Boss himself.
“The way I came up as a drummer, and not a songwriter, was to play everything as well as I could play it,” Weinberg said. “We have 200 or so songs that are on our videos scroll, but if somebody calls out a song, and someone in the band knows it, we’ll give it a shot. That’s the beauty of the Jukebox. We don’t know what we’re going to play.”
Weinberg’s Jukebox returns to Wolf Trap July 10 and 11, the first time at the Filene Center, having played its previous times at the Barns.
“When we play these classics—what I consider the classic literature on vocabulary of rock—what I like to do is try to play as close to the record as possible, and it’s a challenge,” Weinberg said. “I’ve been fortunate to amass a group of musicians who embrace that challenge.”
Just as a real-life jukebox, one never knows what might come out next, and that’s something everyone in the band enjoys.
“I’ve been asked to play ‘Wipeout,’ and The Venture’s song, ‘Walk Don’t Run,’ and these are the songs I’ve grown up with,” he said. “I kind of wear a bit of a badge of honor because bar band musicians are required to do almost anything at the drop of a hat. That’s how I came up playing and if you don’t know something, you’ve got to be able to fake it pretty well. And that’s an art in itself.”
From 2017 to 2020, he performed more than 220 shows, but having been sidelined from performing because of the pandemic, Weinberg wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself.
“I have been working pretty steadily since I was 7-years-old, so this is the first time in my performing life that I felt retired, because I hardly played for a year,” he said. “Playing-wise, what I did was I reverted to 60 years earlier and I just played with the records and imagined myself as Ringo or Charlie Watts. Drummers have to drum.”
He also did a lot of reading, served on the planning and zoning board of his city, and did some work for his real estate interests. And he also devoted time to his fitness, working with a trainer four times a week and feels he’s physically in the best shape he’s been in in more than 40 years.
But now that people are being vaccinated and venues are opening up, he’s excited to be going back on the road and playing in front of crowds, playing the songs fans want to hear.
“I’ve played two so far, and I can tell you people are really dying to get out and listen to live music and it’s a joy to be able to provide that,” Weinberg said. “I’ve been so busy doing other things and I embraced it. But I have played so much in my life, whether it was with Bruce and the E Street Band or leading my band on TV, I just love to perform. There’s nothing like playing live. It’s just a welcome pleasure.”
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