Another member of Bruce Springsteen’s legendary E Street Band arrives in Liverpool this spring. The musicians who play with ‘The Boss’ all release solo music – and they all include the city on their touring schedules. It remains a pity that Springsteen never has (and we’ll get to that… again!), but when guitar heroes like Nils Lofgren visit us, we always like to have a chat about the music they make. By Alan O’Hare. 

“The Beatles got me off classical accordion and onto the rock guitar.” Nils Lofgren, legendary guitarist and member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, is talking about coming to Liverpool. “I still get chills being in Liverpool. It represents the ‘British Invasion’ that I owe so much to.”

Every American musician of a certain vintage remembers February 9th 1964 as the day The Beatles first played on Ed Sullivan. For most, it was the defining moment that sent them off down a path to music and sealed the legend of The Beatles. “Ahh, Liverpool… ,” sighs Lofgren. “The Beatles have the greatest body of music ever recorded in my view.”

He should know. A constant compañero to both Neil Young and Springsteen, the Arizona-dwelling star is also a revered singer and songwriter himself. Records like ‘Cry Tough’ and ‘I Came To Dance’ were big sellers in the AOR-dominated seventies, while songs such as ‘Keith Don’t Go (Ode to the Glimmer Twin)’ and ‘Across The Tracks’ have entered the popular rock canon.

These days the solo highs may well be less heady, but Lofgren has earned the respect of a smaller but confirmed audience and it’s that trust that sees fans patiently wait on his releases and tours. He’s back in Liverpool, at the Philharmonic Hall on Hope Street, in May. With that in mind, I had a gab with him about his music and (obviously) popped that Springsteen/Liverpool question, too…

I hear you’re starting a new solo album. Might we hear a tune at the Phil?
I’m excited about getting a new album recorded and hopefully released by the end of 2018… but I probably won’t be previewing the new songs on this tour. They’re still works in progress.

Fair enough. What can fans expect then, Nils?
We will be adding different songs into the shows from my ten-disc ‘Face The Music’ box-set and other rarities.

Reaction to the box-set was great. How much of a labour (intensive!) of love was it?
It was two years of hard work by my wife Amy and I… and a lot of good people at the label, Fantasy. Handpicking the best of forty eight years of recordings and demos took a long time! I wanted to be able to listen all the way through without ‘lifting the needle’ and skipping. Amy produced it with me, overseeing the art design and layouts, and did a fabulous job there.

The liner notes were impressive, too…
Dave Marsh insisted I write the story and he was a great help editing it. All in all, it was a very intense and rewarding journey.

Cool. Your live shows are always similarly well-received aren’t they?
Well, I’ve found a deeper gratitude than ever for the live concert experience and I’ll be with Greg Varlotta again – who’s been coming to the UK with me for a decade now – and it’s great to have Greg to play off of and allow me to play lead occasionally. We can improv’ more musical landscapes.

Speaking of landscapes, you’ve been touring for many decades. How has it changed?
In the old days it was a bigger deal going from country to country: customs, searches, different currency, on and on. The Euro and the global economy has made it easier – but it’s also taken some charming aspects away. All in all, though, it’s mainly about people going through whatever it takes to be in the room with us expecting a special musical night. That’s always been the lifeblood of touring for us – now, more than ever. We really appreciate that.

‘Black Books’ is my favourite song of yours. What can you tell me about it? 
It was written to be one of a few new songs on a live acoustic record. Thanks to my wife, Amy, giving David Chase that album, ‘Black Books’ wound up on ‘The Sopranos’ which meant a lot to me.

There’s something in the air of that tune…
It’s a haunted story of a darkness and wanderlust that requires a partner to move on, even though they love and enjoy each other in their different ways.

‘Miss You C’ is another great melody of yours. A tough one to sing?
I’ll be singing it on this tour and it’s always a challenge to put my heart into it, but not to the point that I fall apart and stop singing. I’ve done this alone often enough, now.

How is the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary E Street Band?
Amy and I were at the opening night of Bruce’s Broadway debut and it was a wonderful homecoming of sorts, as the whole E Street Band was there. Bruce and Patti were brilliant.

Why hasn’t Bruce played Liverpool, Nils?
I would have said we had if you hadn’t just informed me. That’s surprising. It’s strange that E Street never played Liverpool…

Nils Lofgren
Thursday 17 May 2018, 8pm
Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street, Liverpool
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Pic by Cristina Arrigoni