Too many guitarists on stage? (Springsteen on SNL)

You see it all the time at tribute or charity concerts, particularly on the encores. Look, there’s Tom Petty, and there’s Ron Wood, and Dylan’s strumming a guitar…wait, there must be a dozen gee-tars playing on that song.

I know why it’s done, of course, but it seems a little silly to me.

I got the same vibe watching Springsteen on SNL last night. He was with his E Street Band, and there were no less than 6 guitarists (including bass) on stage. Really? Do his tunes really benefit from so much overlap?

I dunno, maybe they do. I’m interested in others’ opinions.

You’ll get no argument from me. Bruce is a Wall of Sound guy, so it suits his vision. Other than Nebraska, his music is highly arranged and parted out.

I always prefer music where I can hear the pieces interact. Van Halen was so freakin’ huge in part because you could typically tell what he was doing live in the studio on his main guitar track. You could hear his choices, hear him stretch or hurry the groove, his knuckles rubbing the strings like the intro to Atomic Punk, etc.

It’s the difference between Autotune and Adele. Less is more. That is not a slam on Bruce - he can clearly do solo just fine - he likes a big sound. I prefer to hear the players.

I have the same feeling about charity concerts and so on…every one in a while someone steps up (like that one Prince solo that’s been relentlessly overplayed), but generally it’s just a bunch of noise, in tune.

The reason the band is so big is that Bruce is by all accounts a softie. Check out last night’s video. See the guy in the top hat? That’s Nils Lofgren, who was in the E Street Band when Stevie Van Zandt went solo for a few years in the 80s. Bruce doesn’t need him there, but didn’t want to be the tough guy by canning him when Van Zandt returned to the band. Plus one of the acoustic guitarists is Bruce’s wife Patti Scialfa, and why she’s in the band needs no explanation. If Bruce cut down to just essential members, two electric guitarist and one acoustic player is certainly not excessive for a big name band. And no matter what, you’ll need a bass player.

The bass player doesn’t count as “another guitar.” He’s got a completely different job to do.

Those guys with the acoustic guitars? Don’t worry about them. You’re not hearing anything from them over the amplified instruments. A vocalist will often hold an acoustic guitar and strum it, knowing he’s inaudible and safe from detection of his terrible guitar skilz.

A carefully guarded secret of sound engineers: figure out which one plays the guitar best, turn his volume up, turn everyone else WAY down.

Did I hear booing during the applause?

No, you heard ‘Bruuuuce!’. Welcome to 1975.

It’s a show band essentially, not rock band.

Patti Scialfa was in the E Street Band before she was married to, or involved with, Springsteen. In fact, although I’m not entirely sure, she may have been in the band even before Springsteen met his first wife. I’m pretty sure Patti was in the band before he married his first wife.

Depending on the song, sometimes it takes more than one bass player to do the job…Spinal Tap at Live Earth

I’m not sure Springsteen was a softie when he fired his whole band in the late 80s. He brought them back 10 years later.

I’d love to get a cite for this perspective. I’ve never heard that as an explanation for the size of his band.

That’s because it’s bull. Bruce loves the big wall of sound, and Nils and Steve bring different bricks to that wall.

You can never have too many guitars.

Ever hear of the Gypsy Kings?

They had an extra bass player on stage but he was playing the jingle bells.

I’m much more impressed by bands that do a lot with a little, like the early White Stripes, Black Keys, and Nirvana.

Me too. Question, for those like us: Do you listen to classical music? Do you also prefer string quartets, small concertos, and other chamber music to big symphonies and orchestras? I do.

A wall of violins sounds sappy and boring. A violin by itself has a beautiful, emotional, scratchy, almost haunting sound. Same goes for most orchestral instruments, too. I like hearing the details of what each player is doing, and a large orchestra ruins it for me. String quartets are ideal.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Springsteen thread.

Yes, I thought about including that. I absolutely prefer small-combo classical works.

It’s almost as bad as having too many cooks.

Not me. I can’t stand small ensembles. I want wall of sound even from my classical music. The only style that gets a pass is jazz.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard sprinsteen’s guitar through all the other instruments.