At the tail end of a ridiculously long tour, Nils Lofgren might have been forgiven for being a little jaded at The New Brighton Floral Pavilion as he made his appearance at the annual International Guitar Festival that continues at a pace this month. Not a bit of it, though, as the Bruce Springsteen, East Street Band and former Grin guitarist rocked this most sublime of venues with a set that simply oozed class.
From the opening, idyllic strains of Too Many Miles to the closing Keep On Rocking in the Free World, Lofgren took the performance handbook, gave it a cursory glance and then somewhat contemptuously ripped it up, with a show that saw him play harp, keyboards and – naturally – electric and acoustic guitar with such gusto it really defied logic.
Walking Nerve, We Miss You “C” (played in tribute to the late, great Clarence Clemmons), New Holes In Old Shoes and a sublime Going Back lit up the audience, but once the fantastic Greg Varlotta accompanied the maestro with a tap dance rhythm section during Mud In Your Eye, they were eating out of his hand and he never looked back, sprinkling the evening with anecdotes, opinion and warmth at every turn.
His guitar solo during Girl In Motion underlined his extreme ability to wield his instrument with such power and grace, whereas his tribute to the victims of Paris during Dance A Lot showed his humility to such a poignant extent it was impossible not to leap to your feet in appreciation at its climax. I mean, come on, when was the last time you saw one man play harp, guitar, sing and tap dance all at the same time during a single song?
Superb vocals, magical instrumentation, fun, wit, self-deprecation and – above all – bucket loads of talent made this night one not to forget and hope that it isn’t too long before the great man returns to wow us all once more.
Nils Lofgren & Greg Varlotta
The New Brighton Floral Pavilion
November 21, 2015
PR Rating: ***** Unforgettable