Saturday, February 18, 2006

Nils Lofgren: The Birchmere 2/17/06

It had been about a year since I last saw Nils play at the XM Performance Theater, so when I saw he had three shows scheduled for this weekend at The Birchmere, I had to go check him out. Nils was debuting a new CD called Sacred Weapon and the show was being recorded for a possible DVD release.

I arrived, picked up a copy of the new CD and waited for my number to be called so I could enter. Upon entering, I noticed all the tables and seats in the middle taken, so I went over to my right and found a table. For the duration of the show I had a whole table to myself. No one next to me chatting, getting up or placing drink orders. It really was fantastic to be in my own little space there. Before the show, Jeff N. from the Nils listserve came over to say hello. I met Jeff at a Bruce Springsteen show at MCI Center in August 2002. He is from England and we've swapped CD's and kept in touch over the years. For the past two years he has flown over and caught all the Birchmere shows.

The show started around 8:00 and Nils just jammed the entire night. He played old favorites from his solo career such as Keith Don't Go, Across the Tracks, Cry Tough, Valentine, I'll Arise and one song that was used on the HBO show The Soprano's called Black Books. He played one song from his days as a member of the Band Grin, Like Rain. His explanation for not doing more was former Grin member Bob Berberich was supposed to be there last night for the DVD filming, but took ill and had to cancel his appearance. Nils had hoped to have him on for the Saturday and Sunday shows though.

What's great about seeing Nils at The Birchmere is you get the full Lofgren clan of brothers jamming on stage. Nils was joined at various times by Tommy, Mark and Mike Lofgren as well as Buck Brown and another special guest, MaryAnn Redmond. I had never heard of her, but she added a lot to the show last night with her vocals.

For me, the highlight of the show was when Nils and Buck jammed back to back on A Fool Like Me and Deadline. I don't recall ever hearing these two tunes live before.

Finally, Nils closed the show with three encores: No Mercy, Because The Night and Shine Silently. The latter song had everyone standing up and rocking with the music and yours truly did a Tiger Woods fist pump in the aisle as Nils closed it all out.

After the show, Nils did his usual meet and greet with the fans.

During the meet and greet, I asked Nils to sign the new CD for Benjamin. I'm starting to build a little memorabilia collection for him and thought this would be a great addition.

Sacred Weapon reviewed here in The Washington Post.


BC said...

I have spent quite a bit of Time with the new release and have the following thoughts. After one full listen.... In your hands..unlikely duo with Willie but a classic Nils ballad

Alot of times with a new cd I will play one tune over and over one or a few in this case really jump out at me as Nils triumphs... #1 Come a Day ....I have played this tune...too many times to count....what a positive message and classic Nils jam session... a true message of hope #2 Frankie Hang On ....another fantastic song ...what a rush I get when Nils puts his all into certain tunes and this is one of them. Just an instant classic
#3 TROUBLE ...WOW... What a great tune reminds me a bit of Empty Heart ... Emotionally left behind...void of any real love connection......expressed in perhaps the way only Nils can ...What a searing guitar solo and fantastic drum work... These three tunes above all I look forward to seeing live when he tours....cut too short on any studio recording these 3 have the potential to be played live for many years to come.... Wow have I missed the emotional connection of this guys music. He has always been able to put me in a place that no other musician can .....the sound of legenday guitar work goes back decades for all of us and I for one can not wait to see him play his new music with his Band.

Dan in Nebraska said...

I absolutely LOVE the new CD!! The nice thing about Nils' releases is that you always get something different from the last CD...and this one runs the
emotional & musical gamut.

Nils' songwriting has blossomed & his vocals go from sensitive to gut wrenching--for whatever song character he puts himself into.

Everyone knows the electric & acoustic guitar skills, but on
this CD Nils also puts to good use his piano, accordion & newer instruments like the dobro & pedal steel, among others. The solid core trio of Nils, bassist
Kevin McCormick & drummer Timm Biery is supplemented well by some great guest instrumentalists & vocalists. And the artwork is wonderful with the paintings & sketches by Melanie Corradi. A few thoughts on the songs:

IN YOUR HANDS: Nice duet with Willie Nelson & underscored by all the Lofgren brothers. A wonderful dobro mixed in with violins, accordion and brushes compliment the lyrical subject having found a soulmate.

FAT GIRLS DANCE: Insanely funky & complex electric guitar lines
mixed with acoustic ones bring the groove here. Mary Ann Redmond's vocals are a great choice for this song & for the others she sings on--a thick blues voice reminiscent of Kathi McDonald's singing on Grin's "All Out" album; also Tommy Lepson's voice is put to good use.

COMFORT YOUR LOVE BRINGS: one of Nils' most touching vocals,
harmonized nicely by Margo Reed. Timm adds some unique percussion to this one as well as Nils putting in a wonderful accordion track.

PAY YOUR WOMAN: Back to the basics with a blues shuffle featuring some great dobro & barroom piano from Nils. And Kevin holds things down with a heavy bass as the call & response chorus comes in & out.

WHISKEY HOLLER: Evoking some lovely early country rock with Nils' piano & haunting pedal steel guitar. Martin Sexton sings on this one & the two voices blend just as the lyrics tell of "Every neighbor is your friend/Sacred is the shake of hands".

YOU'RE NOT THERE: Nils goes deep down vocally & guitar-wise on this
dark sad tale. Some truly sizzling guitar work on this one...I can imagine (or hope) him soloing on for 10 minutes or more with this one live.

TRIED & TRUE: Nice to have this Tuff Stuff song included here.
Effective gentle guitar & percussion underline the tribute to Walter Payton.

MR. HARDCORE: a different kind of tribute, to producer David Briggs. This is some raw emotion like the "Damaged Goods" CD taken to the nth degree! I can't get enough of the angular, numbing lead & rhythm guitars along with Kevin's bass bombing & Timm's explosive drums!

COME A DAY: I've only got to listen to the CD 3 times, but this is probably my early favorite track; concerning destruction but also redemption on judgment day. From the very start, there is a BIG thundering sound that is
a mix of all the musicians & Nils' inspired vocals along with a very
soulful backing choir. A screaming electric solo precedes the calm final verse & back to huge final chorus.

FRANKIE HANG ON: Another fave, and it's a very timely piece concerning the difficult violent times the world is going through. Nils goes for the personal here instead of the political & sings about the struggles a family
endures in war time. Nils is joined by David Crosby & Graham Nash on the chorus and it's a fabulous vocal mix.

TROUBLE: Nils tackles a fast descending pedal steel riff with ease & Timm answers with some truly ferocious tom tom drumming! Beefed up with more smokin' electric guitar & a piercing high harmony vocal courtesy of

CAN'T TAKE THE ROCK: A rocking vocal duet with BOB BERBERICH! The 2nd verse fits Bob like a glove; Nils & Bob sing together a-la Grin on the final verse. I could not get the volume LOUD enough on this one! A great
closer to a fantastic CD!