Appellate Judge Tom Becker came to dance.
I play guitar all night and day
Cult rock legend Nils Lofgren has performing for more than 40 years—as a solo act, with his own band (Grin), and with giants like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. While never a mainstream success, Lofgren's musical mastery, crowd-pleasing showmanship, and pure and solid rock stylings have won him a dedicated following.
This two-disc set from Eagle Rock offers up a trio of vintage Lofgren performances that were featured on the German TV show Rockpalast. The earliest performance is a nine-song studio set from 1976; next is a 15-song set performed at an all-night concert filmed for Rockpalast in 1979. Finally, there is a 20-song set from a club in Cologne, filmed in 1991.
While the set list varies a bit from show to show, Lofgren's staples are on full display throughout:
The 1991 show features the above-mentioned songs, plus:
"Sticks and Stones"
The shows look pretty good, if a bit primitive by contemporary DVD standards, but that's part of the charm here. These are simple, multi-camera shoots with straight-cut editing, recorded decades ago, and while they're not unpolished, they're far from slick. The stereo track on the two earlier shows is noticeably weak, but the surround tracks sound fine. The 1979 show sports the weakest image, with softness and some video noise apparent throughout.
But the point here isn't to see great camerawork, it's to see a great rock musician, and Lofgren comes through in spades. All three shows are outstanding and fun. While it's great to see Lofgren in a studio setting playing for the cameras, he really soars with an audience. The guitar tricks—and there are many—acrobatic bits with a trampoline—yes, he backflips—and interplay with the band and the audience never take away from his musicianship. It's no wonder he's won the respect of so many music "greats," but it's a little disappointing he's not routinely mentioned in the same breath as Springsteen, Young, Levon Helm, or David Crosby.
It's a shame this set doesn't include anything in the way of supplemental material, except for some liner notes by Peter Ruechel of Rockpalast. An interview with Lofgren or a mini-doc about his remarkable career would have made this just about perfect. As it is, though, you get four great hours by one of rock's scruffiest gems, and that's pretty great in itself.
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