It seems as though the E Street Band is getting bigger by the tour — and 2014 will again see the addition of Tom Morello for their upcoming South American and Down Under dates. Morello, who is prominently featured on Springsteen’s new album, High Hopes, due out on January 14th, stood in for Steve Van Zandt earlier this year during “The Boss'” Australian dates.
Morello spoke about prepping himself for last year’s shows, recalling to Rolling Stone, “Bruce gave me a list of 50 songs, and just to be clear, my strength is not learning music. I’ve never been particularly good at that. There are some guitar players that are virtual jukeboxes. I am not one of those. I had a list of 50 songs and three months before the tour was to begin, I buckled down and got to learning those 50 songs. It was a challenge and a great learning experience. I really got inside Bruce’s catalog and saw the internal workings of his songwriting.”
When asked if Springsteen ever called out a tune that he didn’t know, Morello laughed, saying, “Oh, dude! Those 50 songs were just for the first show! I had three months to learn 50 songs, and before the second show he texted me seven new songs to learn. I had about an hour and 45 minutes to learn those. And the next day it was a few more. Sometimes he takes requests from the audience. People wrote those signs. Finally, I just relaxed. I think there were 10 shows over the course of that Australian tour. We played 78 songs in that time. I think I got 77 of them right.”
Morello went on to say that even though he’s played some incredibly intense shows over the course of his career, the three-and-a-half hour E Street Band concerts were truly punishing: “In the hotel bar after one show we were comparing notes. I was like, ‘Rage Against The Machine shows were exhausting, but the band never played longer than one hour and 20 minutes in its history.’ They were cardiovascularly exhausting shows, but the Bruce shows are orthopedically exhausting.”
Following the E Street Band recording sessions in Australia, Morello continued to work with Springsteen once the tour wrapped and everyone was back in the States: “The songs kept coming and I kept rocking them. I worked on a number of different songs back in Los Angeles. . . I got the notion when we were in Australia that this was coalescing into what was going to be a major release. He seemed really psyched about what was being recorded and it sounded great.”
When asked if he’s game to carry on with the E Street Band following the upcoming dates on the books, Morello said: “Hey, I have yet to say no to a Bruce Springsteen inquiry with regard to playing songs or playing shows.”
One of the highlights on the new High Hopes collection is “Frankie Fell In Love” — a track that recalls Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt’s early bar band days in the late -’60s. Springsteen recalled that where he and the group came from played a huge part in the type of music he wrote and performed: “If you grew up an hour outside of New York, like we did along the Jersey Shore — I mean, most of the people in my town had never been to New York City. And there was no one who came along the Jersey Shore to find talent, or songwriters, or bands. It just didn’t happen then — this is the late-’60s and early-’70s. You were left in a bit of your own wilderness, y’know? But you had a very specific group of influences and a specific sound. So, what it was was bars, y’know, it was bars, cars, girls — it was the things that I ended up writing about.”
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band kick off their 2014 tour dates on January 26th, 28th, and 29th in Cape Town, South Africa.