STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Veteran rock guitarist Nils Lofgren was 18 when Neil Young enlisted him for the recording of the classic “After The Gold Rush” album in 1969.
Serving as a springboard to a highly successful career that finds Lofgren, 63, still rocking concert stages around the globe, he is most notably recognized as a long time member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
A critically acclaimed solo artist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist in his own right, Lofgren has also worked with Ringo Starr and his All-Star band, Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Lou Reed and Patty Scialfa, among others. He is humbled by the success that led to his 2014 enshrinement into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the E Street Band.
“Even though I am in the E Street Band, I think it was deserved and long overdue,” says Nils Lofgren, from his home in Phoenix, Az. “I’d been in the band 30 years and people, in particular Clarence Clemmons and Danny Federici who we lost, were really hurt that it took so long and that it didn’t happen in their lifetime.”
“I think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame knew they should have figured it out, and they didn’t, which is just the bureaucracy,” adds Lofgren. “It was still a great moment, and they were there in spirit.
As a co-founding member of the late 60’s band “Grin,” Lofgren gained notoriety throughout the Washington, D.C. music scene. Signing a recording contract with Epic Records, for which Lofgren credits his work with Neil Young as a catalyst, Grin released four albums — “Grin” (1971), “1+1” (1972), “All Out” (1973) and “Gone Crazy”(A&M Records 1973).
Following the disbanding of Grin in 1975, Lofgren released his critically acclaimed self-titled debut album on A&M Records. Future Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band manager Jon Landau, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine at the time, cited the album as one of the “best rock albums of the year.”
Working his solo career at a feverish pace, Lofgren continued recording and performing with Neil Young. Appearing on Young’s “Tonight’s the Night” (1975), “Trans” (1982) and “Unplugged” (1993), Lofgren was briefly a member of Neil Young’s “Crazy Horse.” He played on Crazy Horse’s self-titled debut album in 1971.
Bruce Springsteen enlisted Lofgren in 1984 as a replacement for guitarist Steve Van Zandt in the E Street Band prior to the “Born in the USA” world concert tour.
An integral member of the band on stage and in the studio, Lofgren performed on the “Tunnel of Love Express” (1988) and “Human Rights Now!” (1988) concert tours, as well as on the albums “Live! 1975-85”(1986), “Tunnel of Love” (1987) and “Chimes of Freedom” (1988).
“There is no bigger fan than myself,” says Lofgren. “I used to buy tickets to see the band in the 70’s and early 80’s. Playing with these guys is a dream come true. I certainly, as a fan, hope somewhere down the road that there is another chapter, but there are no plans that I know of right now.”
A competitive gymnast in high school, Lofgren added a theatrical element to his live performance by playing guitar while doing flips on a trampoline. In 2008, a double hip replacement surgery, the result of years of playing basketball, doing flips on stage and age, brought that stage dynamic to an end.
“I won’t be doing anymore back flips on stage,” says Lofgren. “I miss it, and I’m sorry I can’t do it for the fans. It had a long run. When a surgeon says, ‘You can be a cripple, don’t do it,’ you’d better listen to him.”
Following an 11 year hiatus, Lofgren and the E Street Band reunited with Springsteen in 1999.
The rekindled relationship yielded the albums “Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Live in New York City” (2001), “The Rising” (2002), “Magic” (2007), “Working on a Dream” (2009), “Wrecking Ball” (2012) and “High Hopes” (2014), as well as the supporting concerts tours “Reunion Tour” (1999-2000), “The Rising” (2002), “Magic” (2007/2008), “Wrecking Ball” (2012-2013) and “High Hopes” (2014).
In celebration of a career spanning decades, Lofgren has delved into his musical past with the release of “Face the Music.” Featuring rarities dating back to the earliest days of his illustrious music career, Lofgren is elated with the end result.
“I’ve got this box set out from Fantasy Concord Records,” says Lofgren. “It is 10 discs, a DVD and 9 CD’s with 40 bonus tracks, basement tapes, unreleased things. We found a lot of great rare gems from the early days of Grin and before Grin, which is an extraordinary surprise for me, because most of my old music is out of print.”
“I picked my favorites of 45 years of work to get it out in this really great box set,” adds Lofgren. “I’m just glad a lot of that extinct music is available, and I got to hand pick what I thought was the best of it. It turned out to be a very extraordinary package, and we’re very proud of it.”
Following a 26-month run of live concerts with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Lofgren is shifting his focus back to his solo career with an East Coast swing of concerts that will bring him to the Sellersville Theater this month for a sold-out show.
“It’s been over three years since I did any of my own shows,” says Lofgren. “It’s always exciting and refreshing to get back to my own work since I’ve taken such a long break. I’m not really musically rusty. I’ve been staying busy and engaged musically. I’m excited about it. It’s really healthy and inspiring for me to put a show together with my buddy Greg Varlotta. I know they’re expecting a lot of me, and if I do my job right, I’m able to deliver that. That’s the magical thing I focus on.”
“I think my longevity is a steady journey of showing up and playing for people and doing great shows,” adds Lofgren. “People want to show up, because they know I work really hard to make it a special night for them every time.”
IF YOU GO
What: Nils Lofgren, joined by Greg Varlotta.
Where: Sellersville Theater; 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville.
When: Concert is at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 10. Concert is sold out, according to www.st94.com.
Tickets: Call 215-257-5808 or at www.st94.com.
Info.: “Face the Music” is available at www.Nilslofgren.com or www.Amazon.com. To stay up to date with Nils Lofgren visit www.nilslofgren.com.