Nils Lofgren, May 20, 2019, City Winery NYC

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 The Bells 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 Street Band.

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.