Nils Lofgren is back in the UK with his “50 Years…Up The Road Tour” and LGA reviewer, Paul Wood, was there to catch his recent show at the Birmingham Town Hall.

Interspersed with stories from his life on the road with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Grin ( and how he grew up learning to play  the accordion before switching to guitar), Nils Lofgren is at ease on stage and with his fans, making plenty of time after the show for autographs and photos.


Billed as “an intimate acoustic evening of songs and stories” the format of the show was similar to the last UK tour – a predominantly acoustic set with support from friend and multi-instrumentalist Greg Varlotta.

“Code of the Road” was the show’s opener and, although played on acoustic, had Lofgren hitting the effects pedals to give the first of the evening’s many fluid but fierce solos

“Walking Nerve” comes with a trumpet backing from Varlotta and “Girl in Motion” is transformed into a guitar tour de force as Lofgren sets up the basic guitar pattern on his loop pedal before a series of breathtaking acoustic solo patterns.

Here’s a link to an online video of Nils and Greg performing “Girl in Motion” on their 2015 UK tour.

Mid-set Nils  moved over to keyboard for the trio of “Wonderin’”, “Believe” and “Goin’ Back”. Fresh from a short series of dates with Neil Young in the States, “Wonderin’” was one of the Neil Young songs worked up for the recent shows but not played.

Live Review

Nils Lofgren 2018 pic 2

“Too Many Miles” starts with Lofgren on a Lever Harp (bought for him as a present by his wife Amy) before switching to electric guitar for the first time in the show.

Varlotta switches between keyboard, guitar and trumpet throughout the set and “I Came To Dance” had Lofgren and Varlotta kitted out in tap shoes for a tap dance “duet” (to rapturous applause) in the middle of the song.

Here’s a link to an online acoustic “live in the studio” version of “No Mercy” which was the main set closing number in Birmingham.

Biggest surprise of the night was the first encore – Nils coming out with an accordion and playing “Flight of the Bumble Bee” before moving to an electric guitar for the full rock out on “Shine Silently and his traditional one legged guitar spin finale. It was another great show which covered a wide range of numbers from his very long career.  

Currently in the process of recording a new album and with the promise of the next UK tour being with a full band, if you like Lofgren (or love guitar) it’s well worth catching the “intimate” setting of the current tour.

Nils is at the London Barbican on Monday 28th May and full UK tour dates can be found here:


  1. Code of the Road 
  2. Little On Up 
  3. Walkin’ Nerve 
  4. You 
  5. Man In The Moon 
  6. Girl In Motion 
  7. Love You Most 
  8. Black Books 
  9. Rusty Gun 
  10. Wonderin’ 
  11. Believe 
  12. Goin’ Back 
  13. Too Many Miles 
  14. Keith Don’t Go 
  15. I Came To Dance 
  16. No Mercy 


  1. Flight of the Bumblebee  
  2. Shine Silently 


Here’s a link to Nils playing “Back It Up” on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975:



Last month saw the UK reappearance of Nils Lofgren as a “solo” act and our LGA reviewer Paul Wood was on hand to catch his show at the Birmingham Town Hall.



Billed as Nils Lofgren with very special guest Greg Varlotta, the multi talented duo provided the Town Hall attendees with a 2 hour trip through the Lofgren back catalogue. Nils playing harp, electric and acoustic guitars and keyboards, Greg providing back up guitar, keyboards, trumpet and tap dancing!

The show starts with Nils wearing a top hat and sat at the harp to play the classy introduction to “Too Many Miles”, switching part way through to bring the song to a conclusion with his electric guitar.

Here’s the official video for “Too Many Miles”

Moving on to an acoustic guitar for the majority of the set, Nils spends time between songs telling stories of his earlier trips to the UK and recording with Neil Young.

Here’s a clip of Nils talking about, and playing, Neil Young’s “Long May You Run”

Mid set sees Nils move on to keyboards for a run of songs including “Goin’ Back” (Carole King/The Byrds/Dusty Springfield), “Irish Angel” (Bruce McCabe) and a piano pumping version of “The Sun Hasn’t Set On This Boy Yet”

LGA attendees could do well to catch Nils live – he provides blistering acoustic solos throughout the night, most notably on “Girl In Motion” and permanent live favourite “Keith Don’t Go”– using a loop pedal effect to provide his own guitar backing while he freewheels over the fret board on the solos.

Here’s a link to an acoustic version of “Keith Don’t Go” uploaded by Nils:

“Mud In Your Eye” allows Greg Varlotta to bring the house down with a mid song tap dancing performance (think “Duelling Banjos” but with Nils on guitar and Greg tap dancing!) and even Nils gets in the act with a little bit of tap dancing of his own on first encore “I Came To Dance”.

Here’s a live clip from the US of “Mud In Your Eye” with Greg and his dancing shoes!

The electric guitar comes back out for encore closer (and Lofgren’s signature song) “Shine Silently” . He can no longer do the trampoline back flips (hip replacement surgery has seen to that) but Nils can (and does) still close the show with his trademark one legged wheelies while playing the guitar

Highly recommended for all LGA students – go catch Nils Lofgen live on his next UK tour. His website suggests that he could be back over in the UK in November.

Out now is a 10 disc 45 year career retrospective – “Face The Music”





A teenage musical prodigy, Lofgren first came to attention when he played with Neil Young on his “After the Gold Rush” album, aged just 17. This led to his then band, Grin signing a record deal and releasing four largely unsuccessful albums between the years 1971–1973.

Signed to a solo deal with A & M, Nils found the spotlight in both the USA and the UK with his first two solo albums “Nils Lofgren” and “Cry Tough”.  Released in 1975 and 1976 respectively, these pre-punk albums and Nils’ young gunslinger guitarist reputation caught the public’s attention with the combination of Nils tough and sweet songs and explosive guitar playing.

Nils Lofgren was at this point poised to become one of the next big US stars and his reputation was enhanced with his incendiary live shows, as captured on the “official” 1975 promo only live album – “Back It Up!” (which only appeared as a general release in 2007). A gymnast in his early school days, his trademark live trick was to do a trampoline flip while playing the guitar on stage.

Here’s Nils on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” from 1975 playing “Back It Up” from his debut album. This was his first mainstream UK TV appearance.

A combination of a change in the musical landscape with the punk rock explosion and the less-well critically received follow –up albums “I Came To Dance” and “Night After Night, saw his commercial appeal start to falter (although both of the albums mentioned made the US Top 50), and none of his subsequent LPs charted in the US Top 50.

Whilst maintaining a steady series of solo releases, Nils next came to mass attention when he replaced Steve Van Zandt in the Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, first appearing with Springsteen on his massive “Born In The USA” worldwide tour. When Van Zandt returned to the E Street line up, Nils was retained with the E Street Band and Nils has continued to record/play with the Boss whenever the E Street Band has been called in to action.

Here’s Nils adding typical full 70s wig-out solos (2 minutes in, and then again at 4minutes 30 seconds) on Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love”

Springsteen has returned the favour on Nils’ own solo albums – here’s the official music video for “Valentine” from the Silver Linings (1991) album with Bruce on backing vocals (Ringo Starr on drums!) and a great fluid melodic guitar part from Nils.

When not playing with Springsteen, Lofgren continues to tour and put out albums as a solo act (he has now over 20 solo albums to his name). Sometimes appearing alone, sometimes with one other instrumentalist, and sometimes in a group format, Lofgren always puts on an exhilarating live show with a mix of newer songs and classics from his early solo albums. He still has a guitar technique which can combine both intricate fast and fluid frills and real rock guitar – whether acoustic or electric. Here’s a fantastic solo acoustic clip of Nils playing “Keith Don’t Go” – a classic from his debut album and still a highlight of his set today:

Nils always comes out post-show to meet the crowd, sign autographs and just chat with his fans. If he plays a solo show anywhere near your town – go see him, you won’t be disappointed.   Believe!

Signature guitar

Although Nils has a wide range of guitars, he is most closely associated with Fender and the Fender Stratocaster – in particular the 1961 model. See this Nils promo video for Fender for a great close up of his playing:

Recommended albums

Nils Lofgren

Cry Tough

Silver Lining

Acoustic Live

The Loner – Nils sings Neil


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