Max Weinberg’s Jukebox @ Belly Up

When I saw the listing for this gig, I wondered why? By the end of the night I think I figured it out. What is Springsteen’s drummer doing on tour? This is what you will find on Weinberg’s website:

A truly interactive experience, Weinberg invites the audience to create the set list, in real time, that he and his crack four piece group will play that night. Performing songs from the glory days of rock and roll your guests get to choose from a video menu of over 200 songs — everything from the Beatles to the Stones to Bruce and The E Street Band’s biggest hits

And that is essentially what Weinberg delivered. He leads undoubtedly the most talented cover band you will see, and it is hard to deny the appeal of seeing Springsteen’s drummer up so close.

Weinberg is an appealing MC, introducing the evening’s concept, pointing to the scrolling list of songs from which he suggests you choose. As to my choice “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” by the Swinging Medallions, although the E Street Band has played it before on the bootlegs I have collected, Weinberg shook off the suggestion. “We need the Farfisa organ for that one.”

His two guitarists and bassist traded vocal duties, leaving Weinberg to thrash away with verve and excellence on his kit, always one of the smallest of bands playing the biggest gigs. The scrolling list was a meat and potatoes compendium of classic rock.

The best songs of the evening were the non-Springsteen choices; the latter were actually kind of lackluster.

An early high point was “Good Times Bad Times.” Weinberg paid homage to John Bonham’s prowess with aplomb. But the evening’s apex was “I Can See For Miles.” As with Zeppelin, The Who’s massive sound was underpinned by the drummer. Weinberg pointed out that The Who rarely played the song live, and seeing Weinberg nail the intricate percussion breaks only heightened my respect for Keith Moon.

So why does Weinberg tour? He has a seemingly endless series of dates. It can’t be for the money, he is likely the best paid drummer in the business. I believe the answer came to me from a student I am mentoring at Berklee College of Music. She was researching the economics of a dozen musicians in the Long Island area. The numbers in her quantitative study are pretty grim, but what is thoroughly heartwarming is that she uncovered in her qualitative research that none of the musicians would give up the music.

I expect you don’t have to scratch Weinberg too deeply to get that answer too.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.