St Albans Arena Jan 2015
Nils Lofgren has played with some of the biggest names in music including Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, which is impressive enough but Nils, is of course a virtuoso musician and songwriter in his own right. In a career spanning more than 46 years he has toured the world and appeared on some legendary albums. Looking at his body of work is staggering. He has done more than many people
could do in several lifetimes. He's just released a 10 disc retrospective 'Face The Music' which charts his early work with Grin, covers solo albums, rarities, self-released and unreleased tracks. These hand picked songs are just the tip of the iceberg that make up Lofgren's musical legacy.
Whilst touring with the E Street Band Nils was known for his acrobatics and athleticism, but years of back flips and basketball put pay to his physical theatrics. These days he makes up for it by putting on a musically thrilling two hours plus show and playing a 16 date tour in 19 days!
He begins the set playing a harp intro for Too Many Miles which is both solemn and beautiful before picking up his strat and playing the rest of this slow and moody song. Following on is a track from the box set, Hide My Heart, a masterfully written song full of depth and sincerity and another great song, New Holes In Old Shoes from the 1985 album Filp.
Those expecting the big raunchy electrified band sound from his albums, were in for a pleasant surprise: With several effects peddles and a multitude of mainly acoustic guitars, Nils was able to create some mighty sonorous sounds. Joining Nils on-stage was another versatile musician, Greg Varlotta who played piano, guitar, brass and incorporatd some percussive tap dancing into the set too.
Rusty Gun, a old Grin track which has a country/ flamenco feel to it is another immaculately crafted song which says all that needs to be said within one verse. Girl in Motion, Irish Angel, Man In The Moon, a song which was sadly never recorded (apart from featuring on the acoustic live album) is an insightful look at the tragedy of gun violence, all demonstrate Nil's ability as a songwriter of extraordinary ability. Keith Don't Go is a tribute to Keith Richards and Miss You 'C' a moving homage to his fellow E Street Bandmate the late Clarence Clemons. His charming and thoughtful songs are interspersed with some typically honest anecdotes too about working with Neil Young and David Briggs, and swapping alcohol for ice cream.
Nils was a classical accordion player in his youth and as a result got the gig playing with Neil Young on the After The Goldrush LP. Whilst Nils had never really played piano, his competence on the accordion was good enough for Neil. Since then he has continued to play and takes over from Greg on the keyboard for a couple of tracts including the Goffin and King song No Going Back. Later he puts on his tap shoes to show us his latest party trick which is entertaining and shows that at 63 Nil's is still full of energy and enthusiasm whatever he does. I came to Dance, a cover of the Neil Young track Long May You Run and the uplifting Shine Slightly close the show and the tour.
For many years Nils has been travelling to England to entertain us with his masterful storytelling and heartfelt songs and in return he has gained a loyal following here. He assures us that he'll be back to the UK soon and we can't wait!