Everything that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band does is big. It took 85 minutes to induct the E Streeters into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame three weeks ago at the cavernous Barclays Center. Nevermind Nirvana, which closed the ceremony after speeches and a set with a combined length of 45 minutes.
Springsteen and his E Street Band, performing Thursday at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, ruled the star-studded night, which also saw Peter Gabriel, Kiss, Linda Ronstadt and Hall & Oates enshrined in the hallowed rock Hall. Springsteen was placed in the Hall sans the E Street Band in 1998.
“Sixteen years ago, I stood in my darkened kitchen along with Steve Van Zandt,” Springsteen recalled as he inducted his E Street Band. “Steve was petitioning me to push the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct us together. I listened, but the Hall of Fame has its rules. It was a conundrum.”
The Boss explained that it was his time to be inducted by himself. “At the end of the conversation, he (Van Zandt) said, ‘Yeah, I understand. But Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. That’s the legend.”
It’s true. As great a writer and performer as Springsteen is, he’s incomplete without the E Street Band. Who can forget the early ’90s era Springsteen, which felt kind of empty without his powerful backing unit?
It’s no surprise that the E Street Band joined their employer in the Hall. The legend is indeed Springsteen and the E Street Band.
“I was surprised that he brought that up,” Van Zandt said of the conversation he and Springsteen had on the eve of the 1998 induction. “It was a very personal conversation. It was basically making a case that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are one entity. We created this thing. It’s a hybrid between a solo act and a band.”
Aptly put. Springsteen is the creative engine, and the E Street Band, which also includes bassist Garry Tallent, drummer Max Weinberg, pianist Roy Bittan and guitarist Patti Scialfa, enables him to realize his vision. Springsteen and the E Street Band are a collaboration. However, the Boss calls the shots.
“Bruce knows what he’s doing,” Bittan said. “We trust him, and we all work so well together. He calls audibles all the time. Sometimes when we play we just play a third of the set list. At times he’ll just look at me and say something that I don’t expect at all.”
Guitarist Nils Lofgren recalled an incendiary performance at South By Southwest festival two-years ago when The Boss made a game-time decision without informing the band of a move. “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” was on the set list. However, Springsteen never told his pals that the band would cover the Animals’ tune with Eric Burdon, who wrote and recorded the classic. “That’s Bruce for you,” Lofgren said. “He calls audibles. We saw the song on the set list, but we had no idea Eric would perform with us. But that’s the way it is being in the E Street Band. You have to be on your toes. We’re a team.”
The E Street Band could have had gigs sans Springsteen but have spurned lucrative offers. “We turned down lots of money and lots of deals to do our own thing,” Van Zandt said. “We decided early on that this is what we were going to do. We were one thing: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Bruce handpicked the band himself, one guy at a time. It’s his band. We existed for him, to realize his vision. He handpicked guys that handle a wide variety of things and who follow orders. (Springsteen) is a very creative guy. Our job is to follow where he goes and keep it coherent.”
The E Street Band has managed to keep it coherent from 1973 with Springsteen’s seminal “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” to the Boss’ latest, the odds and sods collection “High Hopes.”
“It’s an honor to be part of this for so many years,” Lofgren said. “I can’t be more appreciative or thrilled. It’s not just about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (induction). It’s everything that we’ve experienced together. There is nothing like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Nothing.”