Best known as the drummer in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band and Conan O’Brien’s bandleader during the NBC years, Max Weinberg’s Jukebox pulled into the Tarrytown Music Hall Friday, transforming the normally reserved 133 year architectural wonder and local treasure into the ultimate classic rock banquet hall.
The evening began with Weinberg coming out solo, mic in hand, telling a few jokes and stories, before describing the unique interactive process by which the evening’s set list would be created: A list of 200 familiar classic rock songs scrolled constantly on the giant video screen behind the stage. Occasionally, Max would walk out into the crowd—once even way up to the balcony—and take a batch of requests from audience members, who stood and shouted their selections as if they were at a raucous wedding or Jersey rock bar.
The songs were familiar classics, almost entirely from the 60’s and 70’s. Representing the broadest range imaginable in terms of intensity and volume, selections from the song list menu ran from Chad & Jeremy and the Monkees to Hendrix, Zeppelin and AC / DC.
The three other members of Max Weinberg’s Jukebox are comprised of New Jersey’s decidedly Beatlesque Weeklings. Max has occasionally joined the Weeklings onstage for Beatles covers, including opening for Southside Johnny two years ago at the Stone Pony Summerstage,.
Besides being solid and versatile players, Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, and John Merjave are each solid lead vocalists as well. With every classic track performed, one of the three was able to more than adequately replicate the original lead vocal.
One highlight which captured the loose and fun spirt of the evening was when a fan insisted on shouting out Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” despite that neither song nor artist appeared on the 200-song list. Ignoring his own opening monologue—“If you don’t see a song you like on the list…start your own damn band”—after playing dumb (“was that ‘Wide World’?”), they played it perfectly, and with just enough enthusiasm to suggest that unlike the other repeatedly-performed songs, they in fact had not played it before.
For a drummer of his stature, Weinberg’s ultimate greatness is less about his stylistic innovations and more about how he has carefully studied and artfully assimilated the style, swing and fills of all the best drummers, not just in rock, but perhaps more critically, in soul, funk, R&B and even jazz as well.
In the mid ’80s, at the height of Springsteen’s Born in the USA popularity, Weinberg actually authored the ultimate rock drummer bible called The Big Beat: a collection of drummer-to-drummer interviews he conducted with virtually all the great soul and rock drummers, focusing on feel more than technique.
Weinberg was able to summon the required power and chops for Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times as well the gentle finesse for Chad and Jeremy’ 1964 ballad “A Summer Song”.
But his best drumming was on Springsteen songs like “She’s the One,” “Thunder Road” and the set closer “Glory Days,” where 50 fans were invited to join the band on stage for backing vocals. Nobody could play those songs better, and the drums were aurally as well as visually front and center. Some night!