To celebrate their anniversary this year, Nils Lofgren and his wife, Amy, headed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where he and the E Street Band were among this year’s honorees.
“It’s like they’re throwing a big party for us,” says Lofgren, who took over as Springsteen’s guitarist when Little Steven Van Zandt left the band in 1984 (they’ve shared the role since the E Street reunion in 1999). “I’ve been in the band 30 years. Amy’s been around for 18 of them.”
The E Street Band joins Springsteen on Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The induction, following the Boss’ in 1999, is bittersweet considering that the band has lost two members in the ensuing years. Keyboardist Danny Federici died in 2008. Sax man Clarence Clemons in 2011.
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“Even in spirit, Danny and Clarence will be there. My buddy Clarence – his feelings were hurt that the band wasn’t inducted all these years. At some point I talked to Clarence about it being like a badge of honor – come see us play because we’re not in the Hall of Fame. Now I have to wear it like a badge of honor that we are in.”
And, he adds: “It’s beautiful that it’s happening while we’re playing and doing what I think are the best shows we’ve ever done.”
Many would agree. Certainly no one expected musicians in their 60s to perform three- and four-hour sets, but loose marathons filled with deep cuts, covers no one saw coming (the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” for instance), and career-defining anthems – not to mention Springsteen’s latest album “High Hopes” – is becoming something of the norm.
“I never ask when,” says Lofgren, 62, who switches up between pedal steel, banjo, and bottle neck guitar with four guitarists on stage, “I just think, ‘Wow. I’m exhausted. Maybe someone should get me a double espresso.’
“We’re all taking our cue from Bruce, who does the heavy lifting. He’s pushing himself to do very improv-heavy shows. … There’s a lot of raw, powerful edges that make the shows better. There’s something about that uncertainty when you keep going at it. He embraces those rough edges. It’s a real smart, healthy thing. It keeps us all sharp.”
Aside from his work as part of the E Street Band, Lofgren (who got his break playing with Neil Young at 17), has released decades’ worth of solo material – most of which is out of print. He’ll remedy that with the May release of “Face the Music,” a 10-disc boxed set commemorating Lofgren’s 45 year career. It includes two discs of unreleased music, a DVD, and a 133-page booklet.
Fantasy Records put the money and energy into unearthing the old albums, something he never thought he’d see.
“I’ve always tried to get the old companies to let me buy my own music from them and they never would let me. To have a company find the music and get it and put it in this package,” he adds, “I’m thrilled.”