Concert review: Nils Lofgren plays two hours for the faithful at Vinyl

Nils Lofgren, playing Vinyl on September 26.
Photo: Wayne Posner Photography
Jason Harris

Three and a half stars

Nils Lofgren September 26, Vinyl.

Nils Lofgren once took part in a show that broke a stadium. It almost completely collapsed because of the rhythmic frenzy the crowd had been whipped into. That’s the reality you live as a member of—to quote its leader, Bruce Springsteen—“the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band.”

So it must be jarring to go from the biggest gigs in the world to playing for 100 people at a small club. But you never would have known that watching Lofgren. He’s not only one of the best guitarists in the world, he’s a total pro. This was the opener for his “Face the Music” tour, celebrating Lofgren’s 45 years in the music business and the release of a massive box set featuring his solo work and music with his old band Grin.

Lofgren stunned on the strings on tunes like “Girl in Motion” and “No Mercy,” but equally impressive was his work on keyboards for songs like Carole King cover “Goin’ Back,” as E Street pianist Roy Bittan watched, smiling, at the back of the room.

Even songs that sound dated on record, like the ’70s-errific “I Came to Dance,” had new life in them live, as Lofgren and tourmate Greg Varlotta utilized their tap-dance skills to create new sounds and make it a full-on showpiece.

No, this wasn’t a stadium breaker. But after two hours of damn good music, almost 50 years into this thing, it’s clear that no gig is too big for Lofgren, or too small.

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