Max Weinberg brings his mighty groove to Markham

Though some are frigid, Max Weinberg’s memories of Canada are pleasant.

“I remember the first time we played in Ontario,” starts Max Weinberg, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and a 17-year fixture of late night television.”It was the middle of winter, the heater didn’t work and parts of the bus were falling off as we pulled into the hotel. Of course it’s different now, I have wonderful memories of Canada.”

At the very least, Weinberg has learned something about tour routing in his 45 years on the road. An early fall date in Ontario should make for much more pleasant driving as his solo show, Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, pulls into the Flato Markham Theatre on October 23.

“That show was fantastic though. It was the first place out of our country we played,” Weinberg remembers. “The people were so welcoming of Bruce and his music.”

It’s true that you can’t have a conversation about Max Weinberg without mentioning Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen has relied on, in his own words, Weinberg’s “soul of dedication and commitment” to hold up “three hours of nonstop, steamrolling rock music laying upon his shoulders more heavily than anyone else’s” for most of the last half century. Weinberg’s work with Springsteen is simply the stuff of musical legend.

Springsteen isn’t always on the road these days, but Weinberg has to keep his chops up in the meantime.

“If you don’t play, you lose the ability,” he says. “I subscribe to the Sinatra philosophy of every date is a $50 dollar date.”

That’s not meant as a put down. Weinberg is trying to convey that every audience is deserving of your best show. This old school respect for show business absolutely informs the show Weinberg is currently on the road with.

“This is not a concert. It is a party!” he explains. “Be prepared to dance.”

Max Weinberg’s Jukebox is Weinberg’s answer to the trend of tribute bands. Except he wants to pay tribute to the entire era of radio that he grew up listening too.

“It‘s very reminiscent of top 40 radio from the sixties,” continues Weinberg. “Back then you’d have The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, and Motown all in the same place. An incredible array across the spectrum of music.”

The show features a revolving video screen of about 300 songs hand picked by Weinberg. They span his history from the sixties to the eighties. The audience is then responsible for picking what is played from the list.

“It’s an incredibly eclectic setlist. Everything from the Beatles to AC/DC,” Weinberg explains. “Even some Johnny Cash and a nice sprinkling of Bruce’s songs in there too.”

The band is designed in classic rock ‘n roll arrangement, with two guitars, a bass, and the drums. The Jukebox band has been on the road together since 2017.

“They play so great,” says Weinberg.

One of the more unique aspects of Weinberg’s show is his own participation as the leader of the band and master of ceremonies. Running a two hour plus rock show is not as easy as it looks and Weinberg has had to step up to the task.

“The big advantage I’ve had is working for one of the great bandleaders, for 45 years,” Weinberg is speaking about his often time boss, Mr Springsteen. “ You see what to do and what not to do just by growing up together.”

Weinberg even takes a turn as a storyteller, depending on which songs are picked.

“I might say, ‘Well, why do you want that?” he says, “or if it’s a request like the Dave Clark Five, who is one of my early drum heroes.”

Weinberg talks comfortably about all of this fantastic music he reveres while seeming to forget that he is an integral part of a legendary music tradition and music history. His humility is charming for sure.

“It’s a continuum,” he says. “When I think of people like Buddy Rich, Ringo, and Levon Helm, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. If I’ve been able to influence someone, that’s a great legacy to have.”

It is a legacy for Weinberg at this point too. His son Jay tours as the drummer for the Nu-Metal band, Slipknot. However fans of the elder Weinberg might remember him when he filled in for Max at a few E Street shows at the age of 19 in 2009.

“He takes the act of drumming way further than I ever thought possible,” says the proud father. “In terms of the technique and the speed, it’s pretty impressive.”

Still, if the senior Weinberg’s approach to drumming is simpler, it is unquestionably effective.

“I’ve always tried to support the song and the guy who was singing it, whether it was Bruce or anybody else.”

This may well be the secret to his success. His respect for songs and finding his place in them. It’s hard to argue with a career like his.

“I’m 68, I still very much enjoy playing the drums,” he says “You know, hitting that right groove and trying to get people out of their seats to dance-I’m a dance band drummer and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be!”

Max Weinberg’s Jukebox performs at the Flato Markham Theatre on October 23 at 8p.m.

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