The news hit last night that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are touring Europe next year, and releasing a new album. The announcement was very thin on details, however – it seemed like a couple of festivals in the U.K. were on the verge of announcing their line-ups, thereby forcing the Springsteen camp to admit that something was in the works. As of now, there are four dates on the books, and a new album on the horizon.
That's about all that we know. Here's a list of five things we'd like to learn.
1. Who produced the album?
A few months back, Ron Aniello posted on his website that he was the producer of a new Bruce Springsteen record. It was taken down pretty quickly. Springsteen has worked with only a tiny handful of producers in his long career, and Brendan O'Brien has been the go-to guy ever since The Rising nearly a decade ago. The thing is, Bruce is always seen around O'Brien's Atlanta studio when they are working together. There hasn't been a sighting recently, leading some to believe that O'Brien isn't involved with this album. Aniello produced Patti Scialfa's 2007 disc Play It As It Lays, so he definitely is tight with the Springsteen camp. Odds are that he did produce the new album – probably at Bruce's home studio – but it's hard to say for sure.
2. How involved is the E Street Band with the new record?
The E Street Band only gets official credit on live albums, and their role on studio albums has fluctuated over the years. Springsteen's 1987 disc Tunnel of Love was ostensibly a solo album, but every current member of the E Street Band (and Clarence Clemons) had some role on the disc – even if Clemons was relegated to background vocals. They were still on the supporting tour, though. So it's unclear if this is another Tunnel of Love-type album, or more in line with Magic and The Rising, where the E Street Band is featured much more prominently.
Muddying the waters even more is a pair of Tweets that former Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain sent out in April. "When the boss calls you gotta go," he wrote. "Today I'm heading out to NJ to record with that guy from there, so excited." Not only were the Tweets deleted, but Chamberlain then took down his entire Twitter account. Why would Chamberlain be playing drums if this is an E Street Band album? Might he have been called in for some other sort of project? Maybe a Patti Scialfa album? Very hard to say for sure.
3. How will Bruce handle the absence of Clarence Clemons?
Clarence was a huge part of the look and sound of the E Street Band, even if Bruce's music hasn't utilized the saxophone much since Born in the USA. When Max Weinberg had to miss some shows in 2009, his son Jay took over on drums. So Bruce has a history of replacing key bandmates with members of their family –and Clarence's nephew Jake Clemons is a pretty accomplished sax player. (Check out his playing on a cover of Springsteen's "Drive All Night" with the Swell Season below.) It's certainly possible that Jake might join the band. It's also possible that Bruce would bring in a full horn section, possibly with Jake on sax. Keep in my mind, this is 100 percent speculation. We honestly have no idea what's going to happen. It's also possible that there will be no horns onstage. On the 1992/93 Other Band tour the sax parts were mostly turned into guitar parts. Only "Born To Run" got the sax treatment. We'll see what happens.
4. When will the tour hit America?
The news blurb last night said that "US date and World tour dates will be coming shortly." We're hearing the tour is coming to US arenas around April, but – again – that's not confirmed.
5. How can they top the last tour?
Though it was technically two separate tours behind two albums, the E Street Band spent much of the time between 2007 and 2009 on the road. During that time, they played halftime at the Super Bowl, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, eight shows at Giants Stadium and pretty much every arena in America, and all sorts of stadiums across Europe. They also performed six albums straight through, and took requests from the audience most every night. It was just an incredible tour. Now they are hitting the road again, without Clarence Clemons. Topping the 2007/08/09 runs seems impossible, but we're sure that Springsteen is up for the challenge.