After performing about 80 three-and-a-half-hour shows, including a three-month European leg on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Wrecking Ball Tour during the past year, Nils Lofgren is getting ready to crash at home and have a break from what he describes as the “greatest musical job in the world.”
Lofgren, 61, is marking 45 years on the road as a musician, with 28 of those years as a member of Springsteen’s band. The virtuoso guitarist said he is looking forward to spending time with his wife and family of two stepsons and four dogs.
For the past 17 years, home mostly has been in Scottsdale, with some time spent with family in Maryland, Lofgren said during a telephone interview Monday with the Tribune, days before an anticipated sold-out show at Glendale’s Jobing.com Arena on Thursday.
The concert is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $73.40 to $103.40.
Lofgren, who was staying at The Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, said that as he’s nearing Social Security age, he’s “appropriately delirious,” as the band — which has yet to join its prolific leader in the Rock’N’Roll Hall of Fame — is making some of the best music that it ever has.
“If you love to perform, it’s as good as it gets,” Lofgren said of touring with Springsteen and the band.
On Dec. 10, the band will play a show in Mexico City, and the tour officially concludes on Dec. 12 at a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Lofgren, a Chicago native who grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix, has more than a dozen solo records to his credit dating back to “Nils Lofgren” in 1975. He joined Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1984, about a month before the epic “Born in the U.S.A.” Tour. He got the job after answering a phone call from Springsteen to audition as guitarist.
He takes about 53 guitars on the road with him and may use up to 25 in one night.
“I do it for the love of the music and the people. It’s inspiring. We never play the same show twice, and Bruce never goes off the song list. It’s a beautiful, musical and inspirational adventure. There’s no rules, and there’s no better band to handle that kind of improv than the E Street Band. It’s challenging, and pushing it to the limit, but that’s what it’s about,” he said.
Springsteen’s 11-track “Wrecking Ball” was released in March. The show will consist of six to eight songs from the record of socially conscious and politically motivated ballads about the state of affairs in the United States and the struggle of working men and women, including “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball.”
The show will also include a lot of the blow-the-roof-off anthems that fans overflow the arena seats to hear — and likely a song or two that hasn’t been played in decades.
Overall, there will be 18 people on stage, including drummer Max Weinberg, bassist Steven Van Zandt and back-up singer Patti Scialfa, Springsteen’s wife.
“The heart and soul of the human condition has taken a beating, especially in the last 20 years,” Lofgren said. “He (Springsteen) speaks eloquently, as always, for the guy on the street and the woman who has dreams.”
Playing without “The Big Man”
The band’s testament to being able to change it up at a second’s notice rings especially true this tour, as the band is nearing the end of its first full tour without “The Big Man,” saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
Clemons died June 18, 2011, following complications from a stroke at age 69.
“I wasn’t sure what to do or how to do it,” Lofgren said of not having Clemons stand beside him on stage. “I’m sure it was painful to figure out, but Bruce found a way. There’s no way of replacing Clarence with an individual.”
Although Lofgren’s moving song, “Miss You C,” which is a tribute to Clemons and a song about loss, won’t be played during the show, a five-piece horn section will fill in for some of the sound that Clemons used to provide. Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons, who has played saxophone for the band on and off for 15 years, and a four-piece gospel choir will be included.
“It was a beautiful ride, and I know he’s here cheering us on in spirit,” Lofgren said of his friendship with Clemons.
The band continues to keep the core of its original members while adding new dimension.
“It’s exciting to have all this new blood in the band and have them discover what an amazing band leader Bruce really is,” Lofgren said. “He’s really inclusive and allows you a lot of freedom to improv your own parts. Trust your instincts and use your own ideas to surprise him.”
But, Lofgren emphasized, all of the songs will be from Springsteen’s extensive catalog of music.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful show,” he said. “It’s never business as usual for Bruce. When we get going, it’s a massive train of a beautiful musical ride. Then, next thing you know, all hell is breaking loose.”
Scottsdale ties, being home
Although Lofgren said he first met his wife, Amy, at the famed Stone Pony — a familiar haunt for Springsteen and his fans — in New Jersey many years ago, the two reunited at the long-gone Rockin’ Horse bar and restaurant on the corner of Goldwater Boulevard and Indian School Road in Scottsdale 17 years ago — 15 years after they first met.
The Lofgrens have now been married for 15 years.
Lofgren and Amy, who is a professional cook and used to work as a cook at Pischke’s in Scottsdale, like to frequent Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix and Rancho Pinot and Los Sombreros Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale.
Lofgren’s wife, who used to help Toto, The Beach Boys and Andy Williams sell t-shirts during the days when merchandise was sold out of the trunks of cars and performers drove around in vans, is active in charity work for Vista del Camino Community Center’s Concerned Citizens for Health (CCCH) and helps collect food, clothing and other items for the group.
Another charity the Lofgrens support is Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS), homeless shelters in Phoenix that also help homeless veterans.
At various concerts, the Lofgrens offer tickets to friends who contribute to the charities and encourage concert-goers to support the nonprofit organizations.
“There’s never a shortage of a need for help,” Lofgren said.
Lofgren said he plans to resume promoting and possibly touring “Old School” — his first solo release in six years — after a few months at home. The tour could include shows at the famed Rhythm Room in Phoenix.
“I really love the record,” Lofgren said. “It was as good as any I have ever done. But right now, my priority is spending a few months at home with my family.”
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