Three months ago, Bruce Springsteen asked Tom Morello to join the E Street Band on their current Australian leg of the Wrecking Ball tour while Steven Van Zandt films his show Lilyhammer. The morning after playing their fourth show, in Sydney, Morello wasn't regretting taking the job.
"It's been great. It's been really an honor being onstage with one of my favorite bands – one of the greatest live bands of all time," he said. "I've been to a lot of Bruce Springsteen shows, but I've never been to four consecutive ones. And every show isn't just a different show – a completely different experience."
The tour has been one of Sprinsteen's most ambitious ever: shows stretching to four hours with his biggest E Street lineup ever, Springsteen breaking out mega-rarities like "High Hopes," "Bishop Danced" and "Be True."
"Our band plays very differently night to night. It's not a repetition, it's a renewal," Springsteen told reporters of the tour in Australia. "If you're doing it right, that's how it feels."
Morello faced a challenge stepping into a band that's been playing together for decades. "I learned about 50 songs in three months for the tour, and every night, 90 minutes til soundcheck, Bruce will text me with seven or eight songs we've never played before," he said with a laugh. "And then during the show, he'll call up songs we've never even discussed – some I've never even heard!
"Every night, there's six to eight songs I have literally about a nanosecond to prepare for. But it's fun. Now that I know that's the gig I'm like, 'Lets go!' Make it clear: I'm not asking Bruce to stump me. I would love to play 'Thunder Road.' But it's been a really fun challenge."
Van Zandt recently admitted he was hesitant to take time off the road. "It's a little uncomfortable, because I've never missed a show, as long as I've been in the band," he said. "I'm very happy they got Tom Morello, 'cause it helps a great deal to know that Bruce is not there up front on his own. I think Tommy, to some extent, will fulfill that function of interacting with the audience a bit, and interacting with Bruce a little bit."
How did Morello learn the songs so quickly? "I'm pretty good at test-taking. I have pretty good guessing skills."
Then Morello cut the interview short to head to the hotel lobby. "I actually have to go downstairs to do a thing with Mr. Springsteen right now," he said.