Tribute band carries the Boss' mojo

Is Josh Tanner possessed by the spirit of Bruce Springsteen?

An observer at a show by his tribute band, Springsteen, might casually say yes. But as far as the Irvine resident is concerned, the Boss literally anointed him backstage one night. Given Tanner's vocal and physical resemblance to his role model, the soul may have been the last part missing.

Tanner — real name Josh Schreiber — will bring his enterprise to the Newport Beach Civic Center on Sunday and the OC Fair on Aug. 8. Each show will spotlight a different side of Springsteen: the Top 40 hitmaker at the civic center, and the early-1970s Jersey rocker at the fair. Wednesday afternoon, Tanner spoke to the Daily Pilot about his life as a tribute artist. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:


I understand that you grew up in New Jersey. Were you a big Bruce fan growing up?

Yes, absolutely. You know, just like you're born into being a Yankee fan if you're from New Jersey, you're born into being a Springsteen fan if he was there before you.

Do you remember the first Bruce song you ever heard?

That would probably be something off of "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle" or ["Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.," his 1973 debut]. Maybe, I would say, "The E Street Shuffle."

Good song. Has Bruce himself ever seen your show?

I don't know, but I have a feeling he might.

Where do you get that feeling?

I was backstage at a sports arena show, and I was standing in a hallway with the organ player in my band and I said, "Let's go stand by the hallway because this is going to be his last song." The organ player said, "How do you know it's his last song?" and I said, "Well, 'cause I would do that as my last song." [laughs] So we went there thinking we would get a jump on it when he came out off the stage and going to his locker room. So we go out there and all of a sudden there's 100 people standing in that same hallway, all celebrities, comedians — every L.A. celebrity you can possibly think of was in town. And they're all screaming and yelling, "Bruce!", and the security pushed us up against the walls so he'd have room to walk.

And he finally starts coming down there. People are screaming his name, and he's got his head down, he's waving with his head down, not looking at anybody — he's got a water in his hand, towel over his shoulder after almost four hours of playing, two big security guards with him, and he just walks right up to me and stands right in front of me about maybe a foot from my face, just stares at me for a couple of seconds — it felt like hours — and he just pointed at me and said, "It's you. You're the one. It's you. You're the guy. It's your fault. You're the guy."

I go, "Wait. What did I do? What did I do?" and then security started grabbing me — to throw me out or whatever, I don't know — and then he didn't say anything else. He just stood there, and they let go, and I stared in his eyes, and he stared in my eyes ... and I took all his mojo. I took everything he was giving me. It was just coming at me like bullets. ... And then all of a sudden, after more seconds, he turned away, looked down, walked right into his dressing room, didn't acknowledge anyone else in the hall, no celebrities.

And my keyboard player looks at me and goes, "What was that? Why did he do that?" I go, "I don't know!" He said, "Do you know him?" I go, "Not like that."

Do you feel like you have his mojo right now?

I definitely do. You know, it's a combination of things. I'm from Freehold, New Jersey. I'm from his hometown. We went to the same high school, the same areas to hang. Nothing changed when I was there and he was there. Everything was the same, the same feeling, the same attitude, You know, it's a brotherhood. So I just feel like he's my older brother and that I'm supposed to do this.

So can I get his mojo through you?

I think you can. I think you can. You felt it the last time you saw us [in concert], a little bit of it?


And there's gonna be more now, because you saw me before this happened. I think you're gonna get a lot more of it now when you see us again live. There's no video and there's no pictures that can recreate the energy that I think I bring to it now.

Bruce has had a lot of styles and a lot of looks over the years, and you definitely look like the early-'70s Bruce. Is that your favorite period for him?

You know, it's my favorite period. The reason he's here now is because of that period, and I am more or less educating the later fans, the ones who caught on later on in the '80s with the hits and after that, who never got a chance to see him in the '70s, to see what it was really all about — see that guy running around the stage and doing things like that. And the music is so complex then, too. It's hard to recreate. And I like that challenge of it. Instead of playing hit song after hit song — which is still good, too, and gets a great reaction from audiences — I'm, like, educating them because I get more reaction from people who were not fans, who are saying, "I'm going out and buying those early records tomorrow, because I never knew he did that."

In terms of your band, do you have a stand-in for every member of the E Street Band?

Yes. The look-alikes in our band are mostly Clarence [Clemons], of course, Max [Weinberg] on the drums, and Miami Steve [Van Zandt], who is just great at what he does. He's such a great support system to this band. He holds it down a lot on guitar — he's like the musical director after me. He makes things happen.

If You Go

What: Springsteen: The Premiere Tribute to the Boss

Where: Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Drive, Newport Beach

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Free

Information: (949) 548-2411 or

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