Lofgren on missing concerts: ‘The audience is as valuable as any member of the band’

Nils Lofgren 2021

CARL SCHULTZ

NILS LOFGREN

Nils Lofgren knows there is a need for online or drive-in concerts during pandemic. But the veteran singer-songwriter-guitarist and E Street Band member also believes that nothing can replace the magic of the traditional concert experience.

“It’s not the same,” he told Mitch Slater on the latest installment of Slater’s “Financially Speaking” podcast, which you can listen to in its entirety (or watch in video form), below. “And in the case of me, or the people I’ve worked with in Patti (Scialfa)’s bands … I’ve been on the road with Patti … some great bands. Willie Nelson, I’ve gotten to play with. Bruce (Springsteen), Neil Young, Ringo’s All Starr Bands. Literally, the audience is as valuable as any member of the band. What they give us, and the energy they give us, and the sizzle in the room, and the expectation …

“I often talk about, when you walk out with Bruce … I don’t care if you’re in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poughkeepsie, Albany, Chicago. It don’t matter. It’s like you play in a Super Bowl, for a hometown crowd, and somehow you’ve been guaranteed a win, and you’re just working on the point spread. That’s it. How big is the win gonna be?

“That’s extraordinary. And without the audience, that’s gone. They are as valuable as any person in the band, including Bruce. Man, they’re it. That’s where the energy and the vibe comes from, and we feed off it, and we love it. And it takes us places we never have gotten in the studio. In a rehearsal hall: yes, great, funny moments, beautiful moments. (But) nothing rivals that.”

Lofgren talked about many other topics in the 80-minute interview, including his recent Nils Lofgren Band tour and new two-CD live album, Weathered; co-writing songs with Lou Reed; his December appearance with Springsteen and the E Street Band on “Saturday Night Live”; and his eagerness to return to touring and being able to attend live shows.

“It’s the lifeblood for most of us,” said Lofgren, from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Me and (my wife) Amy go out and see shows in Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale. I mean, one of the last shows we saw (before the pandemic) was a dear friend, Branford Marsalis, and a quartet. Just extraordinary.

“I get to go back and see old friends that come through town. I realize, too, this last year, Mitch … I was feeling disembodied. Like, I feel like I’m out of touch with my friends. I realize that when you spend half your life traveling the world, a lot of times … let’s say you’re in 40 different U.S. towns, there’s gonna be musicians you wouldn’t normally see that come down to the show, or on a day off they’ll meet you for breakfast, and you see a friend, and you talk to them. So in the last few months, I really had to start using the phone more, reaching out to people, saying, ‘Hey, remember me? What the hell is going on?’ ”

For more on Lofgren or to purchase Weathered, visit nilslofgren.com.

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