Steve Van Zandt is amazed at how strong Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band came out in 2013, after weathering the loss of Clarence Clemons in June 2011. Van Zandt shed some light on the inner workings of the recent Wrecking Ball tour, telling HotPress.com, "I think we've surprised ourselves this year. It's one of the best tours ever. Artistically it's been particularly satisfying in that we really did have to reinvent ourselves. I mean, you're not going to replace Clarence Clemons. Losing Danny (Federici in 2008) was obviously a setback but losing Clarence up front like that threatened the future of the band. For all of us it was, 'Now what? Do we continue? Do we call it something else?'"
He explained that Springsteen decided that the best way to move forward was to salute the past: "What we decided in the end was to try and summarize everything Bruce has been doing these past 35 years. Hang on, these past 40 years! I've just erased Greetings From Asbury Park (NJ), The Wild, The Innocent (And The E Street Shuffle) and Born To Run from history. . . We worked to create a framework within which the folk stuff, the solo stuff and the E Street Band obviously could all be accommodated. It was orchestrated in a way that allows for any musical idea Bruce has to be explored in a moment's notice."
Van Zandt feels that the band is now more free to explore its soul and R&B leanings that were an important part of the band's early make up: "We got ourselves a five-piece horn section, three singers and a percussionist who's also a singer. The rock n' roll side of things is still totally credible, but we've the freedom and personnel to switch into James Brown soul revue mode if we want! We've filtered everything through the E Street Band prism and created something that I have to say feels very fresh and new for all of us."
We asked Steve Van Zandt if he thinks Springsteen would ever take the live lineup of the E Street Band -- with the full horn section -- and utilize its massive sound in the studio on new material: "Well, you never know where this is gonna go -- I mean, that could happen. But in this case it didn't start off that way. It evolved into what you're describing. Y'know, it didn't start off as an orchestra and 'Let's pare it down for the album and then put the orchestra back' -- the orchestra wasn't there. We added the orchestra as the record was finished. We spent a couple of months discussing, 'How do we deal with this?' This, y'know, obvious loss."
Bruce Springsteen has long maintained that hitting the stage primed to excite and entertain is a huge part of what great live music is about: "It's the 'showtime' -- y'know, I think people are frightened of the word 'show' sometimes, but that's what it is. And also, I think it's perceived when you say 'show' for some reason, it gets mixed up with the idea that it's false. But really, it's just a series of tools that allow you to communicate what you're trying to say to the audience, y'know? It's a bridge to the audience when employed correctly. And I love all my favorite entertainers -- they were serious, they were clowns, and they did all kinds of -- they were showmen, and that's just a part of our background. And it was essential when you played in a lot of bars in New Jersey where the audiences could be hostile."
UPDATED: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band tour dates (subject to change):
September 12 - Santiago, Chile - Movistar Arena
September 14 - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Estadio GEBA
September 18 - Sao Paulo, Brazil - Espaco das Americas
September 21 - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - Rock In Rio - Rio De Janeiro at Rock City (with John Mayer)
February 7, 8 - Perth, Australia - Perth Arena
February 11 - Hindmarsh, Australia - Adelaide Entertainment Centre
February 15, 16 - Melbourne, Australia - AAMI Park
February 19 - Sydney, Australia - Allphones Arena
February 22 - Pokolbin, Australia - Hope Estate Winery
February 26 - Boondall, Australia - Brisbane Entertainment Centre
March 1 - Auckland, New Zealand - Mt Smart Stadium
March 2 - Auckland, New Zealand - Mt Smart Stadium