TRENTON, N.J. – Bruce Springsteen is giving President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration the Pennsylvania Avenue freeze-out, but his songs will be performed by a cover band nearby on New Jersey Avenue.
With Springsteen having called the Republican president-elect a “flagrant, toxic narcissist” and questioning whether he’s competent for the job, the B Street Band’s performance at an inaugural event hosted by a New Jersey group has drawn jeers on social media from fans of his music that the band is abandoning the soul of the musician they’ve made a career of following.
“Shame on the #BStreetBand playing at #Trump’s inaugural,” Democratic New Jersey state Sen. Ray Lesniak tweeted last week. “They’ve profited from #Bruce now they’re abandoning the message in his music.”
The B Street Band says its performance at the New Jersey State Society’s Thursday night gala – not Trump’s inaugural ball itself, as many have mistakenly posted online – has actually been planned since 2013.
The cover band has twice performed for the non-profit and nonpartisan group’s galas to mark Democrat President Barack Obama’s inaugurals.
“We got some flak from the others, but nothing like this,” B Street Band bandleader Willie Forte. “We made a commitment, and we’re not political.”
Forte said the group is composed of six “hard-working” guys and has been performing Springsteen songs for nearly 37 years. It draws its name from the E Street Band, which has backed Springsteen since 1972.
“I understand it. We owe everything we have to Bruce,” he said. “But everything we’ve done because of Bruce has raised millions of dollars for charities.”
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The group performed in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention.
Springsteen performed during Obama’s 2009 inaugural, and Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Forte believes much of the criticism arose because people mistakenly thought the group was going to perform at Trump’s inaugural ball.
The New Jersey State Society brings together those with ties to New Jersey in the Washington area and sponsors networking events.
“Springsteen music is magic to the ears of our New Jersey members and guests, regardless of party,” said society executive director Nancy Fatemi. “You can’t have an inaugural ball with a Jersey shore boardwalk theme and not have great Jersey music.”
Springsteen superfan Gov. Chris Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, are honorary co-chairs of the $225-per-person event. The Republican governor’s office did not respond to a question about whether they would attend.
Trump has also been invited.