Nils Lofgren’s many talents were on display at the Hard Rock Rocksino on Friday, July 10th for an intimate solo performance. Both Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen made a wise choice to hand pick this talented artist to play and tour with; The Boss asked Nils to become a full fledged member of the E Street Band over 30 years ago. This eventually led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year as a member of the E Street Band.
In an unusual but fitting way, Lofgren opened the show and took center stage to play “Too Many Miles” on a beautiful black harp. While a harp is not an instrument one usually thinks of when attending a rock concert, Nils made it work and it worked beautifully. On the second song, “New Holes in Old Shoes” he switched to an electric guitar and had an electronic backbeat accompany him.
He also told many stories during the course of the evening. He commented that he rewards himself by eating Haagen Dasz ice cream instead of drinking or smoking a joint like he did back when he was younger. He said “Drinking used to serve me well, but I developed a disease. When I would drink, I would break out in handcuffs!” Another story he told was being able to listen to the first two solo albums by Bruce Springsteen after he “fired” the E Street Band, while driving with Bruce through the Hollywood Hills. One song that caught his attention was “If I Fall Behind” and he played it for the audience. This led to a very touching tribute to his friend Clarence Clemmons. “I Miss You C” was originally written after the passing of Ray Charles but Nils decided to change some of the lyrics after Clarence died.
My gifts are not As grand as yours
Still this and every note you play
Heals our troubled hearts
We miss you C
I miss you C
Lofgren also told a couple of stories about his time playing with Neil Young. He said that he added a polka beat on the piano during the solo and ending of “Southern Man.” Neil liked it so they kept it in even though it is totally different from the rest of the song. He also spoke of the recording of Neil Young’s “Unplugged” performance and how he almost canned “Long May You Run” because Neil said that it didn’t feel right. Nils said that he loved that song, so he told Young “That’s not the song’s fault” that it doesn’t feel right. So Neil gave him a look and said “you count it off” so he did and it ended up making it on the record.
Nils then switched to the keyboard to play a few tunes including “Black Books” which he said was used for the second season of The Sopranos.Switching back to an acoustic guitar, he played “Mud in Your Eye” and “Keith Don’t Go.” On the latter, he used an effects pedal that made the acoustic sound like an electric guitar. On “Mud,” he incorporated a rhythm loop it, and then laid a solo over top of it.
Oh, the technology that we have today.
Nils thanked the audience a few time throughout the show and said that he was headed to Pittsburgh, which got a hearty round of boos! Lofgren deadpanned, “Hey, you got to live somewhere!”
He closed the night with a rousing rendition of the Springsteen/Smith penned “Because the Night” which featured him twirling around the stage during the solo, and “Shine Silently” which was taken from his 1979 solo record “Nils.”
It’s hard to believe that Nils Lofgren has been touring the world since 1968. His gifts are grand, and from the applause from the crowd, we all appreciated that he shared them us.