Grammys a Bittersweet Occasion for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Steve Van Zandt on playing without Clarence Clemons: 'All we can do is carry on as a tribute.'

February 13, 2012 4:45 PM ET
steven van zandt
Steven Van Zandt and his wife Maureen arrive at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

By the end of a more than three-hour telecast dominated by Adele's deserved triumph and the shock over the loss of Whitney Houston, it was almost easy to forget that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off the night with the impassioned live debut of their new single, "We Take Care Of Our Own," which was a highlight for many.

"We just wanted to come see the Boss," Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons told Rolling Stone when asked why the band took a break from recording their new album to come to the Grammys.

But for the E Street Band it was a bittersweet occasion. Lost in all of the other discussion surrounding the show was the fact this marked the first full E Street Band performance without Clarence Clemons. Springsteen played several guest appearances over the last year, at both benefit shows, and with friends like Bob Seger and Sting, but the band hadn't been together on stage since November of 2009, almost two years prior to the passing last June of the "Big Man."

When asked on the red carpet before the show if this was also a solemn occasion Steve Van Zandt told Rolling Stone, "Oh absolutely. But all you can do is carry on as a tribute to him and Danny [Federici]."

The obvious mixed emotions of the night aside, Van Zandt was excited to come out of the Underground Garage he calls his radio home and see the other performances. "It’s so different from my  radio world that’s its own format in a parallel universe, so once in a while it’s nice to come back to the mainstream to see what’s going on in the real world," he said. "I enjoy it when I see it, I don’t really live in that world, but I enjoy it when I visit."

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