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Bruce Springsteen keeps his "bar band" on its toes

 Bruce Springsteen performs during a concert celebrating Pete Seeger
Bruce Springsteen performs during a concert celebrating Pete Seeger's 90th birthday in New York May 3, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
— image credit: Reuters

By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - As Bruce Springsteen calls out surprise after surprise on his current tour, the members of his E Street Band are having the time of their lives, according to guitarist Nils Lofgren.

"With the new album ('Working On a Dream') and everything, I didn't expect to get to this point, with all the audibles (spontaneous changes) and improvisations, until much deeper in the tour," Lofgren told Billboard.com. "It's just born of years and years of doing this with Bruce, and we're taking it to a new level. It's exciting and it's challenging. You accept that sometimes you never know what's coming around the bend and just go with it.

"I just know the shows are great, and it's heartening to see that after all these yeas of doing it, we're playing what we think are the best shows we've ever done. It's exciting for guys who have been around this long."

Springsteen and company are still thrilling fans with gems from his own catalog, but the story of the tour has been the covers -- something Springsteen has always done but this time he's pulling out ad hoc, usually fan-requested choices such as the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," the Who's "My Generation," the Rascals' "Good Lovin'," the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie," the Soul Survivors' "Expressway to Your Heart," Willie Dixon's "Seventh Son," and ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears."

Springsteen has dubbed the E Streeters "the greatest bar band in the land," and Lofgren says it's a tag the group wears proudly.

But, he adds, "There's just not bar bands of this caliber, with a leader like we have. But, yeah, we all learned how to play in cover bands and cut our teeth on an incredible wealth of catalogs like Motown, Stax Volt, the British Invasion, blues...We're a hard group to stump."

Lofgren acknowledges that he sometimes gets to the venues early to "prepare" for that night's festivities, even though he notes that "you never know what's coming." The off-the-cuff choices have also sent the Teleprompter crew scrambling to the Internet for lyrics.

The North American leg of the tour wraps May 23 in East Rutherford, N.J., with the European leg kicking off a week later at the Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands. There are rumors of more dates for the late summer and fall, but nothing has been announced beyond August 2 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

"Certainly there's talk about (more shows)," Lofgren says, "but it's kind of stream of consciousness, not something that's booked a year and a half in advance. I'm sure Bruce and Patti (Scialfa) will evaluate what's going with their family and decide whether or not they're gonna do (more), and we'll go from there."

(Editing by Dean Goodman)

(please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)

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