By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Bruce Springsteen tribute band bowed to pressure on Monday and backed out of performing at a gala on the evening before Donald Trump's inauguration, saying it was doing so out of respect for the New Jersey rocker, a vocal critic of the president-elect.
The B-Street Band, which has performed covers of Springsteen and his E Street Band since the 1980s, dropped plans to perform at Thursday's Garden State Inaugural Gala in Washington after receiving a storm of emails both criticizing and praising the appearance.
"Our decision is based SOLELY on the respect and gratitude we have for Bruce and the E Street Band," the band said in a statement released to Backstreets.com, a Springsteen fanzine.
The 67-year-old New Jersey native, known for such hits as "Thunder Road" and "Born in the U.S.A.," has repeatedly voiced anger and disdain for Trump, calling the Republican maverick a "moron" in a September interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
Springsteen also appeared at a rally for Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic opponent, just before the Nov. 8 election.
Springsteen had not commented in public about the B-Street Band's planned performance. But E Street Band member Stevie Van Zandt said in a Twitter message: "Nice guys. Met them. I wouldn't say right or wrong. Up to them. But it's naive to think one can separate Art and Politics. Art IS Politics."
The B-Street Band performed at the 2009 and 2013 Garden State Inaugural Galas, which are sponsored by the New Jersey State Society. In 2013 the band signed a contract to perform at this year's gala.
Trump, a New York real estate developer, won with a populist platform that included promises to build a wall along the Mexican border, restrict immigration from Muslim countries and dismantle President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
The B-Street Band's move came two days after Broadway star Jennifer Holliday dropped plans to sing at an inaugural concert, citing an online article that cast the performance as a "betrayal" of her gay and lesbian fans.
Nancy Fatemi, New Jersey State Society executive director, said organizers had been swamped by requests from other groups wanting to take the B-Street Band's place.
"We've actually already selected one, but we're not ready to announce it," she said.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Alan Crosby)