LIVE: Max Weinberg’s Jukebox @ Proctors’ GE Theatre, 1/11/19
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Photographs by Rudy Lu
Well, it’s certainly a fun concept.
This is a bit of a lark for the E Street Band drummer, a nostalgic trip back to his younger days playing the Jersey shore with cover bands. The difference is that Weinberg is now a highly respected and popular figure,
famous for both being the longtime anchor of the biggest bar band in the world and also the bandleader for Conan O’Brien while he was in his pomp as a real contender in the late night TV ratings wars.
The set up is that Weinberg and his band play in front of a large screen that scrolls the titles of dozens, if not hundreds of rock era songs – mostly from the ’60s & ’70s. Most represented are The Beatles, possibly next The Stones and Bruce, and then a whole slew of songs to bring a wistful smile to any baby boomer.
They start off with a couple of numbers, and then Weinberg continually walks out into the crowd who can shout out their requests from the list. And then the band plays them. Simple as that.
It’s all good fun after a shaky opening where both the sound balance and the band’s vocal harmonies were off on a ragged version of “She Loves You.” A more powerful “Fortunate Son” saw the musicians and the sound get up to speed, and from then on it was smooth sailing.
Weinberg is a genial and amusing raconteur, and I could have done with maybe more of his on-the-road type anecdotes in place of a couple of songs. The guy could definitely write a book given his experiences behind Bruce and dealing with the world of network TV.
The band he is using for this venture is the New Jersey (surprised, right?) Beatles acolytes The Weeklings, with Weinberg replacing their regular drummer. Yeah, it may be a pun based on the spelling of their favorite band, but, guys, it’s still a terrible name.
They are Bob Burger and John Merjave on guitars with Glen Burtnik on bass. Rock nerds like myself will recognize Burtnik from a couple of spells with Styx and a varied solo career. All three split lead vocal duties, but Burtnik seemed a little under the weather. He has a fine tenor voice, but struggled with his leads like “The Night Before,” and bear in mind, this guy has played Paul McCartney on Broadway in Beatlemania.
Burger and Merjave handled the lion’s share, though, and both impressively managed that chameleon-like quality you need as a cover band singer. Burger in particular channeled Tom Petty’s laconic drawl on “American Girl” and Bon Scott’s screech on “Highway to Hell” to good effect.
Weinberg generously plugged the Weeklings throughout, and they did play one of their original songs “In the Moment.” It was, however, little more than a disjointed Fab Four pastiche.
Wrapping up the show with a not requested “Daydream Believer” was a strange choice, especially as it pressed Burtnik into another uncomfortable vocal. But Weinberg had calculated his encore perfectly.
He encouraged everyone in the sold-out crowd to come down and join the band to sing and dance along to “Glory Days,” and many of the Jersey boys and girls did just that. The crowd certainly left happy and contented, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drummer aside, I could have seen this same show in any bar for free.
MAX WEINBERG’S JUKEBOX SET LIST
She Loves You (The Beatles)
Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
Jumping Jack Flash (The Rolling Stones)
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out (Bruce Springsteen)
Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan)
Take It Easy (The Eagles)
Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen)
Drift Away (Dobie Gray)
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young)
The Night Before (The Beatles)
I Wanna Be Sedated (The Ramones)
Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles)
Wooly Bully (Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs)
She’s the One (Bruce Springsteen)
American Girl (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
Hang on Sloopy (The McCoys)
In the Moment (The Weeklings)
Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)
Pump It Up (Elvis Costello)
White Room (Cream)
The Jean Genie (David Bowie)
Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
Daydream Believer (The Monkees)
Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen)