WASHINGTON – Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band say Bruce Springsteen’s show at Nationals Park Friday night will feature a freewheeling, gut-feeling, heart-stealing blend of new and old songs, performed by Springsteen’s largest E Street Band ever.
“The emphasis is on the new album and what Bruce is thinking and feeling and wanting to talk about right now,” says guitarist Van Zandt, referring to Springsteen’s album released in March called “Wrecking Ball.”
“Bruce’s new albums always have something to do with present tense,” says Van Zandt, also known as Little Steven. “Our audience, which is the best audience in the world, is not only one that accepts our new material but expects it, and they come along for the ride.”
Van Zandt and Lofgren say the band will never be able to replace saxophonist and longtime Springsteen foil Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011. Songs featuring The Big Man will be played at Nats Park.
“I miss Clarence terribly,” says Lofgren, who began his music career in the Washington area with his band Grin.
“We’ve got a great five-piece horn section and added a couple more singers,” Lofgren says. “It’s the biggest band we’ve ever had — 18 pieces strong.”
“It’s morphing into another entity,” Van Zandt says. “It’s no longer ‘the E Street rock band’ that people saw in 1978 or 1980.”
“There’s not horns on everything, there’s not percussion on everything, there’s not extra voices on everything. You’ll hear some of the original songs played the original way, which is the way it should be,” Van Zandt says.
While some fans might prefer to hear material from Springsteen’s earliest albums, predating “Born To Run,” Van Zandt says those songs will be sprinkled into the set.
“They don’t want us to be a nostalgia band. We never will be one because Bruce continues to be this incredible writer. He continues to work much harder than he needs to,” Van Zandt jokes.
Lofgren says he can’t say what songs will be performed at Nats Park because he doesn’t know yet.
“The improv stuff is off the charts. Bruce is pulling signs out of the audience (on which fans scrawl song requests),” Lofgren says. “We’re playing songs we’ve never played in our lives together.”
Van Zandt and Lofgren say shows on the “Wrecking Ball” tour have been an exhausting 3 1/2 hours long.
“Bruce is determined to make every night a unique night that no one will ever see again, and he’s been doing it every night so far,” Lofgren says.
Van Zandt agrees the show is powered by Springsteen’s songwriting.
“The energy comes from the writing, the script. There’s no movie without the script, there’s no Broadway show without the script and he writes the script. Every time we go out it’s a new show,” Van Zandt says.
Springsteen’s determination to grow “continues to impress me, which isn’t easy,” says Van Zandt, who has been Springsteen’s friend since they were teenagers in New Jersey.
“When is he gonna relax and smell the roses? Never. That’s when. It’s just not gonna happen,” he says.