Last week NBC's Website confirmed that drummer/bandleader Max Weinberg is definitely coming to Los Angeles when Conan O'Brien takes over The Tonight Show. So what does that mean for Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's tour, which kicks off a European leg two days before Conan's June 1st Tonight Show premiere? "We're still figuring that out," says E Street guitarist Steve Van Zandt. "We'll see. I think Max will be there for most of it. I just got home from Europe, so I haven't even talked to Max to see what the latest news is. I know he was very much trying to figure it out."
When Max himself spoke to Rolling Stone earlier this year he described NBC's extreme patience over his frequent absences, hitting the road with the increasingly busy Springsteen. "It's a hell of a problem to have in this economy," he said, explaining that a well known NBC sitcom star's attorney asked why Weinberg was allowed sabbaticals when his client couldn't take one to film a movie. "The NBC lawyer thought for a second, then said, 'The next time Bruce Springsteen asks your client to play drums, she can do that.' In the legal department it's known as the Weinberg-Springsteen Rule."
Whether or not the Weinberg-Springsteen rule applies to the first few weeks of The Tonight Show, however, is up in the air. "Max will be fine until the beginning of the show on June 2nd," says Van Zandt. "After that, we'll see. I'm sure Max will be there for most, if not all of the tour. He's as dedicated as it gets. I used to have to fly home every day off and film The Sopranos. He may have to do something like that. Conan, it must be said, has been tremendous. Once that second banana [former sidekick Andy Richter] split, I started to get concerned. I was like 'Uh-oh. Now Max is not only the music director, he's also the second banana.' That's a huge role to play."
Is the band thinking about a possible temporary replacement? "No names have come up yet," says Van Zandt. "I don't know if it's quite at that stage." The E Street Band hasn't played a show without Weinberg since he joined in 1974. "It's hard for me to picture a show without Max, honestly," says Van Zandt. "It really won't be the E Street Band. I guess various members will come and go as we go through these last few years together. If there's a few shows where he's not there, I'm sure it will be fine. Most of the time he's gotta be there though. There's no drummer that could replace Max. There might be someone temporary that comes in and we'll have to adjust the show accordingly. What nobody understands is that not only is Max a great drummer, Max reads Bruce's mind. You can't learn that. That's impossible to learn. You could spend months rehearsing and you'll never get that."
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