Thursday, September 20, 2012
Max & The Mad Dog
What I'm about to say might be taken by some as a form of sacrilege, but I assure you, I've thought long and hard about this for years.
Max Weinberg is a pretty terrible drummer.
Got to see the E Street Band last night. Stellar, as always. But this is not a review of the show. What I've noticed the last few times I've seen the band live, I've actually noticed on the hundreds upon hundreds of live E Street Band tapes and bootlegs I've been listening to for years.
Max Weinberg can't keep time and his drum fills are ham-fisted and graceless.
NOW....that being said. Do I still believe the E Street Band is the greatest live band of all time?
BUT...how many of us are paying any real attention to its individual members? I'd say few. We watch Bruce. We listen to Bruce. We gaze adoringly at Bruce. We listen to the band. And it works. And that is enough.
As a drummer, I watch the drummer. A lot of the time. I can't help it. And last night something happened that really sealed the deal for me regarding Max, though as I said, I've been feeling it for years.
Bruce brought out original ESB drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez for a rock solid version of "The E-Street Shuffle," and for 6 minutes in front of a giant stadium crowd with a pretty damn fine sound system, the E Street Band sounded different. It was, to this drummer's ears at least, a transformation. Lopez moved with the band. He made sense. It wasn't just stamina, which the "Mighty Max" has in spades. It rocked and grooved and suddenly the E Street Band, believe it or not, seemed even more powerful.
It wasn't only that. This isn't a "Mad Dog is better than Max" argument. I am not saying that. But, a few songs later in the set, during Roy Bittan's bravura piano solo in "Racing In The Street," Max started his bits, and it ruined the song. It was as if he was playing in the "Me Street Band." Not feeling the vibe, he just pounded haplessly, with the same stock fills he's been employing for years, coming in and out of the beat so often, my friend commented, "His fills sound like falling boxes."
I want to stress, this isn't me suddenly turning against the E Street Band. I'm not looking to start a thread or controversy with some lame Andy Rooney-ish, "You know what, the E Street Band is overrated." NO NO NO NO NO!
I'm just curious, doesn't anyone else hear it? Are there any people out there, drummers or bass players, anyone, who feel the way I do?
Would I want to see Max Weinberg replaced? No. Not at all. But listening to "The E Street Shuffle" last night with that sudden backbeat replacement was glaring. It was better.