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October 8, 2007
- Reporter's notebook -
My dad’s famous guitar friend works his own Magic with an onstage tour
By Luke Pearson
HARTFORD, Conn. – I’d never been to a rock concert before, so I didn’t know what to expect when my parents told me that we were going to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band open their tour.
I was really excited, though, to see Bruce in action, and I told all my friends about it before the show.
What made it even better was the possibility of an up-close encounter with my dad’s good friend, guitarist Nils Lofgren, who plays in the E Street Band.
Nils Lofgren, left, and Bruce Springsteen on Opening Night of the "Magic" tour in Hartford, Connecticut.
He still plays the guitar he got when he was 16
The Tattoo talks with Nils Lofgren
Before the concert, Tattoo writer Luke Pearson spoke one-on-one with guitarist Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band, a musician who Bruce Springsteen calls “the greatest guitarist in rock and roll.”
The Tattoo: Are you nervous coming back on the stage with the band after four years?
Nils Lofgren: “No, not really. Actually, I’m more excited than nervous. Just to go out there and play some music is exciting.”
The Tattoo: What do you think is your favorite song?
Nils Lofgren: “Oh, that’s so hard. Every song is so great. Though two songs I do really enjoy [are] “Radio Nowhere” and “Long Walk Home.”
The Tattoo: What kind of guitars do you use on stage?
Nils Lofgren: “I use the Fender Stratocaster. That is my oldest guitar and I use it on the hard rock songs. I’ve had it ever since I was 16.”
The Tattoo: Are you going to stay in Hartford after the show?
Nils Lofgren: “Unfortunately, no. After the show, the band and I are packing up and going down to New York and then Philly to continue our tour.”
I hoped for a chance to talk with Nils, and I got it.
When my family arrived at the Hartford Civic Center the day of the show, I saw thousands of people on the streets, trying to get inside, many of them fans wearing Springsteen shirts and carrying old photos of Bruce from the 1970s.
Once we got inside the Civic Center, it was like a madhouse.
We had our tickets and Nils said we were on the list to enter the E Street Lounge. We took an escalator to the lower level and found ourselves facing a line of security guards.
My dad and Nils grew up in Maryland together, and played in each other’s bands as teenagers and young men. They even spent a few years playing gigs in Europe.
Cover of the 1976 LP that Nils Lofgren produced.
For my dad’s band, Charlie and the Pep Boys, Nils produced an album and played keyboard.
So my dad wasn’t making it up when he told the security guard that Nils is his best friend. But the guy wasn’t buying it.
If we didn’t have credentials, he said, we couldn’t get in.
So my dad produced a cell phone number for Nils and gave it to the guard. The guard took it to one of the guys who works for the band, who took it to Nils.
While we were trying to get into the E Street Lounge, my mom spotted Vincent Pastore, the actor who played Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero on “The Sopranos,” the hit HBO show that Van Zandt also starred in.
Pastore was surrounded by several big security guards. Nobody really talked to him, but everyone knew who he was and was excited to see him.
Pretty soon, the guy who works for the band came back and cleared us, so the guard wrote us some passes and let us in.
The E Street Lounge is not a fancy place. It’s sort of like a tent. There’s a blue curtain separating the people with backstage passes and the E Street Lounge. There are caterers in the middle of this, serving chips, soda, beer and other drinks.
On the E Street Lounge side, there were some round folding tables with cups of M&Ms on them – so many M&Ms that it could make you sick. I learned that the hard way.
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While my brothers and I scarfed M&Ms and waited for Nils, my dad talked with us about what the concert would be like and what to expect. But I was so excited to see Nils that I was only halfway listening.
The backstage thing next door was not as fancy as the E Street Lounge. There weren’t any tables at all. It’s sort of boring in a way, but all the stars come. People who won backstage passes in a radio contest got to go there and meet Little Steven Van Zandt and Nils.
We peeked at the backstage area and I waved at Little Steven, who was talking and signing autographs and photos. He saw me and waved back.
When Nils saw us, he gave us all hugs and he and my dad started laughing about old times. Nils said he’d take us on a tour and show us the stage.
I was blown away. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
While we walked toward the stage and I interviewed Nils, two women fans from the backstage area tried to tag along with us, but another security guard stopped them.
We walked up some metal stairs and saw a row of guitars, all belonging to Nils. They looked like Jimmy Hendrix guitars. Nils showed us his favorite and oldest guitar.
After that, he showed us some notes that Bruce wrote to himself and to Nils about the show, as well the set list.
I couldn’t read Bruce’s handwriting. It was really messy. I could read “Radio Nowhere,” and “Long Walk Home,” though.
I got to see the microphones where Bruce was going to stand and where some of the other band members would be soon. He also showed us Clarence Clemons’ saxophone.
Looking out from the stage, I saw the people in the crowd starting to arrive and I felt all the eyes on me.
Then Nils had to get to work. We thanked him and said goodbye and went to find our seats, ready for the fun to begin.
Springsteen's handwritten setlist for the Hartford concert on Oct. 2, 2997
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