Standing on a Tampa stage in February, Bruce Springsteen told the story of his childhood friend, George Theiss. The New Jersey rocker recounted how the two joined the Boss’ first band, the Castiles, years ago, and how, in 2018, Springsteen visited Theiss shortly before he died of lung cancer.
Theiss’ passing made Springsteen the only surviving member of the Castiles and inspired the song “Last Man Standing” on the 2020 E Street Band-backed album, Letter to You.
“At 15, it’s all tomorrows,” Springsteen told the crowd. “At 73, a lot of yesterdays. A lot of goodbyes. That’s why you gotta make the most of right now.”
That message accompanied a longer soliloquy about growing older, as well as a concert that launched Springsteen and E Street’s first tour since 2017. The impassioned monologue has since become a staple.
“That, to me, is one of the all-time historical high points of Bruce’s performance,” says E Street drummer Max Weinberg, who spoke to New Jersey Monthly in February. “It blows my mind. It’s different every night. And I’ll be 72 in a couple of months. You do reflect, as he says, on the difference between when you’re a teenager and when you’re this age.”
Weinberg, a Newark native, actually turns 72 on April 13, a day before Springsteen and the E Street Band are set to play their first New Jersey show since September 2016. The Prudential Center is hosting the musicians in Weinberg’s hometown on April 14 before three additional Garden State gigs at MetLife Stadium on August 30, September 1 and September 3.
Weinberg is looking forward to the homecoming, which will give the South Ward product a “poignant” opportunity to pass by the tiny venues and dive bars he once played. In the meantime, he is thrilled to be back on the road with Springsteen.
“It’s like no time went by at all,” says Weinberg, who lives in Florida now. “You run out of superlatives. It is fantastic, but it’s also extremely rewarding to be playing with the band again, and energizing. All the things you think it would be.”
But the band’s first tour of the pandemic era has also offered moments to mourn the people and time lost. Even as Springsteen and company rejoice at the chance to party with fans again after years of delays, members have missed shows due to Covid-19. Three performances in March were postponed due to unspecified illness.
Weinberg also noted that the ensemble still grieves late peers like Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici “every night we play.”
Still, celebratory vibes have largely dominated the shows, even though steep prices caused an uproar before the tour began. Springsteen has played songs old and new, hits and deep cuts, and has been varying set lists slightly from night to night.
“He keeps it fresh. He’s always trying different things,” Weinberg says. “He’s still out there literally, as the song goes, proving it every night. It’s really something.”
Changes keep Weinberg and his bandmates on their toes, but the drummer still gets a kick out of performing after decades in the music industry.
“I get excited about every show. That’s the point. You recognize, particularly if you’ve done it for a long time, what a privilege it is to do it,” Weinberg says. “We all feel that. Bruce feels that as well.”