Sometimes simplicity always you to hear nuances, textures and tones that a full band rendition of songs closes your ears to. Tonight when Nils Lofgren was joined by fellow multi-instrumentalist Greg Varlotta in exploring re-arrangements of well-known numbers from his fifty years of playing music that excites. Tonight, the last night of a three and half week tour the energy permeating from the stage was electric despite the predominately acoustic shaping of the show.
Opening the night swathed in blue light with Wonderland, our journey was beginning as we were all thoroughly entertained as we were treated to a mix of numbers from Grin numbers to exciting covers and beyond utilizing an array of instruments. In between the anecdotes shared gave us an insight into songs being written and his life on the road since turning a professional musician at 17 and back to his early childhood learning the accordion in Chicago. What was clear was the warmth of Nils and his easy interaction with a loud crowd at St David’s Hall as over a thousand people took pleasure in the company of virtuoso guitarist Nils as we celebrated with him 50 years… Up the road.
The numbers from his early days were special first, Like Rian simply stupendous, the percussive use of the sound box was stingingly clear and powerful, then later we heard Rusty Gun with trumpet from Greg we were enthralled, and we were never distracted from the string and picking play by Nils on the acoustic. Nils knew he would get a cheer when he said he was glad to be back in Wales and it was like a second home. Later we had a promise that there was a new album being mixed and the possibility of a tour next year with the band! Wow, we will be in our seats to hear you play again in Cardiff.
Delighting the audience with Girl In Motion, from the album Silver Lining lit the energy in the hall, this great song lifted the mood we were now even more excited about what was happening next.
Nils, played All Out, another Grin number inspired by the UK Invasion of the 1960’s, having seen The Who, Rolling Stones, been inspired by The Beatles and others. We were told how he met and was mentored by Neil Young and became involved in After The Gold Rush. How the piano shapes the number Southern Man the polka reprise influenced by his early days playing the accordion.
Every number played was a highlight, Keith Don’t Go with its impressive use of effects with an acoustic guitar solo and then the tap dancing. As we watched Nils and Greg tap dance on I Came To dance, it became a duel between guitar and feet. We may not have seen the Nil’s flip but we had twirls and feet stamping as the electric guitar set the house on fire.
Closing out the evening with a cover of the Bruce Springsteen number made famous by Patti Smith, Because The Night and then finally Shine Silently we stamped our feet and clapped as the electric guitar rang out across the hall.
Tonight, was a mix of spell-binding guitar and other instruments as Nils Lofgren explored numbers often played out on the rock stage re-arranged rather than stripped back numbers for the acoustic show and an autobiography. It worked despite the size of the auditorium, this was a deeply personal show as we felt connected to the music. Nils demonstrated that the difference between roots/traditional music and rock are intrinsically entwined – they are both music of the time and the people. This is what we want to hear. Live music is exciting and invigorating tonight was a perfect example of art in action.