Bruce Springsteen has made masterpieces and clunkers. (Who still listens to 2009’s “Working on a Dream”?) But for 40 years, his concerts have been consistently epic.
At 62, the Boss just wrapped a European tour with concerts that ran a rock ’n’ roll marathon of three-and-a-half-hours. In front of 80,000 at London’s Hyde Park, he broke his curfew and officials pulled the plug. Next up is a Stateside stadium trek beginning at Fenway Park [map] on Tuesday and Wednesday and Gillette Stadium on Aug. 18.
But for the first time since Springsteen came barreling out of Freehold, N.J., he’s without sax man Clarence Clemons, who died a year ago. For E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren, who spent three decades stationed between Springsteen and Clemons on stage, the loss of the Big Man has been huge.
“It was a giant challenge to re-create the band and another chapter without Clarence,” Lofgren said from his home in Arizona. “I saw it as the biggest challenge I’ve ever been through with the band … But Bruce has navigated it pretty spectacularly.”
While Clemons’ nephew Jake Clemons has joined the band, he hasn’t replaced Clarence. Instead, the younger Clemons is part of a five-piece horn section.
“There is no Clarence II, just like there is no Gary Tallent II, Roy Bittan II, and so on,” Lofgren said. “But having the horn section is great, having Jake and Ed (Manion) share the sax duties is great. Bruce has so many songs that lend themselves to horns, it’s good that we can put them to use every night.”
The E Street Band now features 18 members who play dozens of instruments, from guitars and fiddles to accordions and glockenspiels. Lofgren calls it “the greatest toolbox in rock ’n’ roll history.” And with three “new” albums to pull from (2011’s “Wrecking Ball” and the double-disc re-issue “The Promise”), there is plenty of fresh material.
“Sometimes all the pieces are roaring at once, and then a moment later, the show is just Bruce with a harmonica and guitar,” Lofgren said.
By the end of the night, everyone’s covered with sweat and occasionally blood — Lofgren tore his rotator cuff during a stage tumble in the spring; he’s had both hips replaced after too many rock star leaps from the drum riser.
The guitarist began with Neil Young, toured with Ringo Starr and has a small but successful solo career. His latest album, “Old School,” features Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers and Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm. But he says he’ll always be ready when Bruce calls.
“I’ve trained my whole life for this,” he said. “As long as my health is fine, I’ll keep doing this.”
Bruce Springsteen, at Fenway Park, Tuesday and Wednesday. Tickets: $75-$103; event.etix.com. Bruce Springsteen, Gillette Stadium, Aug. 18. Tickets: $40-$101; www.ticketmaster.com.
By Jed Gottlieb, Re-posted from BostonHerald.com