It was June of 1984, and after the release of Bruce Springsteen’s most successful album to date, the E Street Band was getting ready to blow the doors off the entire world with their massive “Born In The U.S.A.” tour. They would eventually cover 156 dates across North America, Australia, Japan and Europe. Several of those legendary performances took place in Canada, with multiple dates in Toronto, as well as shows in both Montreal and Vancouver.
However, before the first roadie even loaded an amp, there was to be a significant line-up change, with guitarist/vocalist Steven Van Zandt breaking away as a soloist, leaving a gaping hole in both the group’s sound and personality. But in an historic dose of Rock and Roll serendipity, the change was made in time and the little man joined the band. Enter Nils Lofgren.
It’s rare that an established performer can join a beloved team like the E Street Band and take it all the way to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. There are a few exceptions, of course. Ron Wood left The Faces and morphed into a Rolling Stone right before our very eyes, and vocalists like Paul Rodgers and Canada’s own Larry Gowen have taken over the role of frontman for the likes of Queen and Styx. No small task, and Nils Lofgren’s seamless transition to E Street super-stardom ranks amongst the highest of those musical hand-offs.
Already established as one of rock’s most versatile performers, Lofgren was only 19 when he was recruited to play on Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush”, an iconic album that led to a brief stint as a member of Crazy Horse. There was some success as early as 1971 with the band Grin, and then many years as a respected, multi-instrumentalist solo performer, which culminated with the release of the “Face The Music”; a 9 DC box-set, which covers an astonishing 45 years of performing. It’s a must-have retrospective for any music historian.
For many fans of rock and roll, Nils Lofgren is revered for his work as a musician; literally jumping and flipping on stage from guitar to accordion to banjo to steel guitar to keyboards to harp. Because of this immense talent and charisma, his vocals are often overlooked – and that’s a very big mistake. Whether taking the microphone as a lead or back-up, Lofgren possesses a hauntingly unique singing style with a sweet, heartfelt sound that has now become synonymous with the E Street Band. Some of his most memorable vocals have been in harmonious unison on stage with Patti Scialfa, who became an E Street member on the same night as Lofgren. More synchronicity, to be sure.
Now Nils Lofgren is back on tour, side by side with Bruce and the band, just as he’s been since June 29th, 1984 in St Paul Minnesota. Along the way there’s been global tours for Tunnel of Love, Amnesty International, The Rising, Magic, Working On A Dream, Wrecking Ball, High Hopes, and of course the current extravaganza, The River 2016. Along the way there was that little stop at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame a few years back to be inducted, along with the entire E Street Band, in the “Award for Musical Excellence” category.
Oh yeah – and driven by the power of rock and roll, Little Stevie, the protocol son, did make his way back home, as well, continuing to tour whenever his TV schedule allows it. You’ll see him trading guitar licks with Nils Lofgren and mugging with the audience if you’re lucky enough to catch a show this time around.
When it comes to rock and roll, there’s always room for one more.
Hear That Eric Alper’s Show’s exclusive interview with Nils Lofgren this weekend on SiriusXM Canada Talks 167:
Saturday, January 30th at 12pm, 4pm and 11pm ET
Sunday, January 31st at 6am, 11am and 2pm ET