E Street Band and Crazy Horse guitarist Nils Lofgren put
on an incredible 14-song set at City Winery in support of his new album Blue With Lou that includes six songs from
his 1979 collaboration with Lou Reed. Hot off some recent West Coast dates with
Crazy Horse and an album they just completed, Lofgren’s been a busy man in the wake of the E Street Band’s
extended hiatus. Lofgren stepped up to the plate at the Winery and took on his
own solo career that goes back to the early seventies and his band Grin, as
well as assorted chestnuts from throughout his solo career.
He worked the two hour set like a charm combining
blistering guitar work with some acoustic numbers, as well as keyboards that
oozed the sound of a Fender Rhodes. Aided by legendary studio drummer, Andy
Newmark—who played on sessions with Carly Simon and most notably John Lennon’s Double Fantasy—he added a funky in-the-pocket
groove to Lofgren’s shredding. Lofgren’s set was a meandering tour-de-force of
killer licks and melodic ballads steeped in Southern California
singer-songwriter lore. He sprinkled in anecdotes about the songs like a
troubadour to a bygone era connecting the dots of rock ‘n’ roll royalty from Bruce
Springsteen to Neil Young and Lou Reed along the way.
In 1979 Lofgren sent Reed a cassette tape of songs containing
only the music after they were introduced by producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd)
and spent an evening “Drinking whiskey and watching football” at Reed’s
place. At 4:30 in the morning shortly thereafter Lofgren got a call from Reed
who dictated the song’s lyrics over the phone to Lofgren. Of the batch, three
songs each ended up on Reed’s 1979 album TheBells and Lofgren’s Nils.
The latest release from Lofgren, Blue
With Lou, contains the rest of the unrecorded numbers.
“Too Blue to Play” sounded like an acoustified
cocktail of Southern California hippie folk mashed thru the sardonic urban wit
of Lou Reed. The other Reed collaboration from the night “Don’t Let Your Guard
Down” was a straight ahead rocker combing Lofgren’s jangly guitars with
Reeds streetwise swagger. Lofgren took to the keyboards on “Big Tears
Fall” and “Goin Back” from his Grin days. then talked about
working on the sessions for Young’s 1971 album After the Goldrush.
Having never really played the piano, he got talked into
it by David Briggs (who also produced the first Grin album) at Young’s place in
Topanga Canyon, adding some polka-styled rhythms he copped from his days
playing accordion to drummer Ralph Molina’s backbeats that eventually made it
onto “Southern Man.” Lofgren
added that his two night stand at the Winery marked the 50th anniversary of his
collaboration with Neil Young and Crazy Horse as well as his 30th with the E
The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
morphed into “I Came to Dance,” from Lofgren’s 1977 album of the same
name, which got everybody on their feet dancing to the former Sly and the
Family Stone drummer Newmark’s syncopated rhythms for the set closer. John
Mellencamp’s guitarist Andy York joined on the final encore, “Sweet Jane,”
that was a three-chord “Walk on the Wild Side” of churning riffage,
closing the circle on this celebration of Lofgren’s ties to New York City and the
patron saint of its streets, Lou Reed.