By Brian Ives
Bruce Springsteen‘s legendary players, the E Street Band, have long been considered one of the best backing bands in music history. Since reuniting in 1999, they’ve continued to push the envelope at a time when they could have rested on their reputation and catalog; changing set lists nightly, playing sets that routinely exceed three hours, taking audience requests at stadium concerts and even learning songs on stage. They’re the gold standard for backing bands of any genre and any era.
But on their current tour, they’ve been raising the bar even higher, adding new covers every few nights. The latest being Van Halen‘s “Jump,” which they opened their set with last night (April 6) at the NCAA March Madness Music Festival, closing the final night of a three-day free music festival held in conjunction with the Final Four Men’s Basketball Championship.
The set opened with the Van Halen cover, as Springsteen’s longtime guitar tech Kevin Buell officiated a “jump ball” between Springsteen and guitarist/basketball fan Nils Lofgren.
Over the last few weeks, other covers have referenced the location of the concert: Lorde‘s “Royals” was performed at various shows in her native New Zealand, while the Australian tour featured covers by local heroes AC/DC, the Bee Gees, the Easybeats and INXS.
In South Africa, the band covered the Specials’ “Free Nelson Mandela,” days after the iconic world leader’s passing; the Artists United Against Apartheid all-star song (written and organized by E Street’s Steven Van Zandt) “Sun City.”
It’s a pretty busy week for Springsteen (and his fans): over the weekend, HBO premiered the half hour documentary “High Hopes,” focusing on the album of the same name, which was unexpectedly released earlier this year.
The documentary featured interviews with Springsteen and guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, who played on a number of songs on the album, and is also accompanying the E Street Band on their current tour.
Later this week, the E Street Band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fameat the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with Springsteen presenting them. Tom Morello will be presenting KISS at the same event, and with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley announcing that they won’t perform at the show. Perhaps the E Street Band may test their skills again by learning “Rock and Roll All Night.”