It's been 11 years since he stepped onto the stage with New Jersey's own Bruce
Springsteen, but for sax player Clarence Clemons nothing has been lost in that time.
Least of all, the musical bond.
"There'll be no oiling up with this band," Clemons said Thursday.
Although it's been more than a decade since E Street Band members last toured with the
"Boss," Clemons and his bandmates don't expect to be the least bit rusty when they
reconvene next week to begin rehearsing for a reunion tour that's expected to be one of
the major rock events of 1999.
"The oil has been there for years and it only gets better," Clemons, who's known to
Springsteen fans as the "Big Man," explained from Palm Beach, Fla., after finishing a
workout at a local gym. "Everybody's grown musically, spiritually. The sound should be
better than it ever was."
Original E Street member "Miami" Steve Van Zandt concurred.
"It'll probably be very, very immediate in one sense, and then we'll work on details," the
guitarist said during a recent photo shoot in his New York apartment. "There'll be various
vocal parts, or [decisions about] who's going to do which guitar part. But this band has
always been an incredible band, and it'll be very, very good immediately."
Van Zandt will be one of at least three guitarists onstage when Springsteen and the E
Street Band take to the road for the first time since the Amnesty International's "Human
Rights Now!" tour in 1988.
He will be joined by fellow six-stringers Nils Lofgren -- who replaced Van Zandt when he
left for a solo career (under the name "Little Steven") before the 1984-85 Born in the
U.S.A. tour -- and Springsteen himself.
Clemons and drummer Max Weinberg will be there, too, when the tour kicks off in April in
Europe. The rest of the lineup has yet to be confirmed; in the '80s, the E Street Band also
included bassist Garry Tallent, keyboardists Roy Bittan and Danny Federici and
singer/guitarist Patti Scialfa, now Springsteen's wife.
Shore Fire Media, the Brooklyn, N.Y., company that handles Springsteen's publicity, said
this week the tour itinerary and band lineup are forthcoming.
Van Zandt said the tour will hit U.S. stages in June.
Springsteen and the E Street Band's three- and four-hour concerts in the '70s and '80s
were the stuff of rock legend, incorporating high energy, skillful musicianship and a
camaraderie among bandmembers that demonstrated Springsteen's leadership and
Most of the bandmembers launched new careers when Springsteen decided to disband
the group for most of the '90s.
Weinberg, a.k.a. "Mighty Max," became the bandleader on NBC-TV's "Late Night With
Conan O'Brien." On Tuesday the 47-year-old drummer announced he's taking a leave of
absence from the show to tour with Springsteen.
Speaking from his "Late Night" dressing room Thursday, Weinberg said the leave is
open-ended but probably will last through the summer. He said the band will begin
preliminary rehearsals next week and start working earnestly in February.
The drummer said Springsteen's music is "all fun to play and it's all challenging to play ...
whether it's from The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995) or Nebraska (1982) or
Born in the U.S.A. (1984) or any of the earlier records."
While the E Street Band's high-energy stamp was all over Born in the U.S.A., --
also the group's most commercially successful effort -- Springsteen made the more
spare The Ghost of Tom Joad and Nebraska without the band.
Clemons, who is working on an album with his own backing group, the Band of Faith,
said he'd hoped for, and anticipated, an E Street reunion for some time.
"Anything so great could never go away forever," he said.
In 1996, Springsteen reunited with the E Street Band to record three previously unheard songs for the five-track Blood Brothers EP/video package. The EP featured an alternate version of the title song, which appeared on Springsteen's 1995 Greatest Hits album, as well as the track "Without You," a cover of Tim Scott's "High Hopes," a version of Springsteen's "Secret Garden" with strings and a live version of "Murder
In the last year, Clemons, who served as Springsteen's onstage foil, has played a
weekly gig for his rock and R&B band at Palm Beach's 251 Club. He said he's eager for
the chance to play any songs by his former boss, be they such classics as
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Springsteen,_Bruce/Born_To_Run.ram">"Born to Run"
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Springsteen,_Bruce/Born_To_Run.ram">"Born to Run"(RealAudio
excerpt), or cuts from last fall's four-CD box set of archival material, Tracks.
"I'm just excited to see everybody," Clemons said. "To walk out on the stage
together that first night, it's going to be so fantastic. I just hope I can stay on the floor and
keep my feet on the ground."
Van Zandt, who stars as a mafioso strip-club owner in the new HBO series "The
Sopranos," said the logistics of performing with three guitarists have yet to be worked
out. Still, all three have shared the stage before, as on the live video for
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Springsteen,_Bruce/mono-excerpt- Murder_Incorporated-28.ram">"Murder Incorporated"
Murder_Incorporated-28.ram">"Murder Incorporated"(RealAudio excerpt of
studio version), which featured Scialfa on a fourth guitar.
Springsteen has not yet told bandmembers which songs from his quarter-century career
he'll emphasize on the tour, although Van Zandt will likely put in a bid for Tracks'
"Loose Ends" (RealAudio excerpt), which he said
is his favorite Springsteen song.
"It's all going to be fresh for me; I haven't done it for 17 years," the guitarist said. "Playing
any of the songs is going to be fun. I'm sure we'll get a few of the Tracks tracks in."
Van Zandt said the routing of the tour should allow him to complete summer filming of
"The Sopranos" in New York.
"I'll just fly back and forth," he said. "Right now I plan on being there for every show."
It remains unclear whether the E Street Band will jam with Springsteen when he's
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame March 15, according to Clemons. The hall's
decision to induct Springsteen without his backing band -- who, according to hall rules,
are not eligible for induction until next year -- was seen as heresy among diehard Boss
"When it's time for us, because of the ruling, we'll be inducted also," Clemons predicted.
"But I don't do this for recognition like that; I do it for the love of it. I don't care about the
gold records and all of that stuff. I care about what we do onstage, and the joy that we
bring to people.
"The music scene has been lacking this thing that we presented so much," the Big Man
said. "It's going to be a real revival for music, for us, for our audiences."