NEW YORK — In 1974, when he was looking for a new drummer, Bruce Springsteen famously took out an ad in the Village Voice but specified “no jr. Ginger Bakers”— meaning, don’t apply if you’ve got a busy, flamboyant style. Max Weinberg got the job, and has kept it for more than 40 years now.
Sunday night at the City Winery, Weinberg finally got a chance to play a song by Baker’s group, Cream, as part of his own Max Weinberg’s Jukebox show, featuring him and three members of The Weeklings. It was this new project’s debut. There will also be a second show at City Winery, Monday, plus later stops at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Aug. 30; and White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, Oct. 18. (Update:There will also be a show at the Newton Theatre in Newton, Sept. 9; tickets go on sale July 28 at 10 a.m.).
The Cream song was “White Room,” which was one of close to 200 possibilities suggested on a master list that scrolled on large screens on both sides of the stage. Audience members picked out song titles and shouted them out; Weinberg and three members of the band The Weeklings played 22 of them. (see setlist below). Weeklings guitarists Bob Burger and John Merjave and bassist Glen Burtnik handled lead vocals (The Weeklings also opened the show with a set of their own).
It was a loose, fun show with, frequently, a garage-rock feel, but some more complex music, too, from time to time. While his energy and precision at E Street Band shows remains a marvel, he doesn’t often get a chance play something as thunderous and showy as Baker’s introductory riffs to “White Room,” or to thrash away as wildly as he did on Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”
Weinberg never sang lead, though he did add some backing vocals and percussion on The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” as a fan took over for him on the drum kit. He allowed two other fans to drum on other songs, as well, and a third to sing “Thunder Road” (after being invited onstage just to hum the piano part). For the encore, Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” more than a dozen fans were invited onstage to sing and dance.
The format of the show made for some weird juxtapositions. It was kind of strange, for instance, for The Band’s sincere, soulful, gospel-flavored “The Weight” to be sandwiched between AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”!
Given the strong influence of The Beatles on both The Weeklings and Weinberg, it wasn’t surprising that approximately a third of the master list was made up of Beatles songs, and that three of them (four if you count “Twist and Shout”) made it into the show.
In case you were wondering: I counted seven Springsteen songs on Weinberg’s master list, although only the two mentioned above made it into the show. Some of the slightly surprising master list songs that were NOT played at the show included Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” The Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up,” The Monkees’ “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses.”
The song on that list that I was most disappointed not to hear was The Who’s “I Can See for Miles.” I would have loved to hear Weinberg’s take on one of Keith Moon’s most masterful performances.
Weinberg explained that his manager came up with the idea of “a show of everybody else’s rock songs,” and joked that anyone who wanted to hear something not on the master list should “start your own damn band.”
Answering a question from an audience member, he said that, no, he doesn’t know anything about the possibility of Springsteen playing Broadway. And he mentioned, before playing The Rolling Stones “Street Fighting Man,” that he was listening to that on the drive to the studio to record “Born in the USA,” and his performance on that song was his way of “channelling” Stones drummer Charlie Watts.
Here is the show’s setlist, and the artists that the songs are most associated with:
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, City Winery, N.Y., July 16
“Rebel Rebel” (David Bowie)
“Mony Mony” (Tommy James & the Shondells)
“Street Fighting Man” (The Rolling Stones)
“White Room” (Cream)
“Breakdown” (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)
“Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen)
“Louie Louie” (The Kingsmen)
“Fortunate Son” (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
“Doctor My Eyes” (Jackson Browne)
“In the Midnight Hour” (Wilson Pickett)
“If I Fell” (The Beatles)
“Highway to Hell” (AC/DC)
“The Weight” (The Band)
“I Wanna Be Sedated” (The Ramones)
“Nowhere Man” (The Beatles)
“I’ve Just Seen a Face” (The Beatles)
“Oh, Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison)
“Surrender” (Cheap Trick)
“Mustang Sally” (Wilson Pickett)
“I’m a Believer” (The Monkees)
“Twist and Shout” (The Isley Brothers/The Beatles)
“Glory Days” (Bruce Springsteen)
(July 18 update: Here are videos from the second night, Monday, of “She’s the One,” plus “Fire” with E Street megafan Mitch Slater and others singing. They were both posted by Slater.)
(July 19 update: Here’s another video, posted by Michele Angermiller, of “Surrender,” and below that, the setlist from Night 2 at the City Winery, according to setlist.fm.)
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, City Winery, N.Y., July 17
“Glad All Over”(The Dave Clark Five)
“Mony Mony”(Tommy James & the Shondells)
“Born to Be Wild”(Steppenwolf)
“She’s the One”(Bruce Springsteen)
“(I’m Not Your)Steppin’ Stone”(The Monkees)
“Surrender” (Cheap Trick)
“Breakdown”(Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)
“I Can See For Miles” (The Who)
“19th Nervous Breakdown”(The Rolling Stones)
“I Want to Tell You”(The Beatles)
“Get Off of My Cloud”(The Rolling Stones)
“We Can Work It Out”(The Beatles)
“The Weight”(The Band)
“Drift Away”(Dobie Gray)
“Look Through Any Window”(The Hollies)
“I Want to Hold Your Hand”(The Beatles)
“For Your Love”(The Yardbirds)
“You’re Going to Lose That Girl”(The Beatles)
“Good Lovin’ ” (The Rascals)
“Twist and Shout”(The Isley Brothers/The Beatles)
“Glory Days”(Bruce Springsteen)