Nils is hoping for a hot gig

Nils Lofgren
Nils Lofgren
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ROCK veteran Nils Lofgren is still full of bounce as he approaches his 60th birthday.

ROCK veteran Nils Lofgren is still full of bounce as he approaches his 60th birthday.

At an age when many men want nothing more than a quiet life, the multi-instrumentalist is heading on tour again and attacking it with lots of enthusiasm. As far as he’s concerned everything’s ‘great’ and even extremes of weather won’t stop him in his tracks.

“I’ve done many shows in Sheffield over the last 40 years,’’ he tells us. “I remember once it must have been in the early ’80s or late ’70s it was the coldest night in history.”

You get the feeling he may be exaggerating slightly, but it seems things got worse. “The heating system broke. I’ll never forget it, we had an audience where you could see everyone’s breath and they were wearing their winter coats. We still had a great time, though.”

Nils is returning “in more civilised circumstances’’ with a City Hall show tonight and even if by some freak of nature it is freezing, he’s confident his energetic on-stage presence will get everyone swiftly warmed up.

After all, among his claims to fame are that he used to play and sing on stage while bouncing on a trampoline. Although those days seem to be behind him following a double hip replacement three years ago, the former champion gymnast is taking steps to ensure his show is still visually as well as musically entertaining.

“We’ve got some keyboards, guitars, trumpets, tap dancing, singing, guitar improvisation... it’ll be a fantastic night for everyone.”

Since starting out as a teenager with his own band, Grin, and playing on Neil Young’s legendary After The Gold Rush album, Nils has worked with many big names, among them Ringo Starr, Robert Plant, Jerry Lee Lewis and Willie Nelson. However, it is for his long-standing association with Bruce Springsteen he is best-known in this country. Since joining the floating line-up backing Bruce in 1984 he’s played worldwide on their intermittent tours, including a couple of dates in the late 1980s at Bramall Lane. The Blades’ ground seems to not have left much of an impression, however.

“I’ve been there with the E Street Band of course,’’ he confirms. “I believe we did a small stadium, an outdoor place.” Nevertheless: “We had a great time. It was a great show with a great audience.”

One thing he didn’t find much fun was his solo career often being stymied by faceless music industry suits for whom cash flow is the bottom line. He felt the profit motive strangling his creativity and for an artist of his experience and standing being told what to do was just too much.

Luckily technology helped and now Nils does most of it himself, not only making music but marketing it too.

“I’m working on a new album I hope to be released this October on my website – nilslofgren.com – and we’ll be playing some songs from that at the show.

“I left the record company 15 or 16 years ago. It’s not an environment conducive to creativity because I never had big hit records for the company. They wanted to ‘help’ me change my music and I’m too set in my ways. With the website I can do whatever I want, whenever I have something to share, including improvised off the cuff stuff. I can make records and explore new ideas without having to answer to anyone else. It gives the freedom I need.”

And during his City Hall set he’ll be using this freedom to go off on at a tangent at any point, although he promises material covering his entire career.

One thing that has helped Nils’ remain an individualistic artist is a strong bond with his fans.

He also has a Yorkshire connection, helping to raise money for Martin House Children’s Hospice. Based near Wetherby, it is only the second of its kind in the country, providing care and support for youngsters with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

Nils teamed with Dave Burgess, the father of a youngster treated there, to record a couple of songs – Nils’ own Shine Silently and Four Strong Winds, recorded by many artists, most famously Neil Young.

It is out on CD and also available to download through Amazon and iTunes, while the daveandnils.com website gives futher details.

“I’m honoured to have done this home-made musical effort with Dave and friends. It’s a special charity effort for children who are in need and any help will be put to good use and greatly appreciated.”

If you want to wish Nils an early birthday – he turns 60 later this month – you may be able to do it in person at tonight’s concert.

Unlike many aloof stars, he likes to meet those who listen to his music.

“At the end of the night I come out and sign CDs and t-shirts,’’ he says.