Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nils Lofgren, Marcus Eaton, the Blooms; great night!

I'm still reeling after catching a trio of wonderful artists at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano several nights ago (Tuesday, July 18).
Headlined by E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren, the bill also included singer-guitarist Marcus Eaton and the Blooms (featuring singer-songwriter Allan Goodman).
The magic kicked in at 8 p.m.
Right on time, Fullerton-based The Blooms (singer Allan Goodman, lead guitarist Marcus McMillan and singer Kimberly Ann) took the stage. I had seen Goodman years ago (likely in the mid to late 1990s) as a solo acoustic act, but this show was far greater than any of those performances. His skills as a singer and songwriter are impressive, and the harmonies with Kimberly Ann worked really well. The trio's set included "Someday Maria," "I Wish I Knew What You Wanted," the country-tinged "All the World," "Still," and the infectious rocker "Good Enough." It was a wonderful 30-minute set and I look forward to hopefully catching a fully-electric set from Goodman with a full band soon.

I had never seen Marcus Eaton before Tuesday. Wow, what a guitarist. He performed solo, using a variety of effects and looping devices to build songs on stage and then play guitar and sing over those structures over the course of his 48-minute set. Eaton, whose voice often sounded like that of John Mayer to my ears, featured a number of new songs from his latest CD, "The Story of Now," including the Bruce Cockburn-styled "Drug" (which served as his set opener), rocking "Candle to the Sun" and "Standing Still." Eaton is a singular talent and that was obvious after catching him for the first time.

There is something completely unjust about an artist with Lofgren's talent performing before a less-than-capacity crowd at the Coach House. But those at the show know they were part of the fortunate few; this was a concert that will not be quickly forgotten. His 90-minute show featured Lofgren performing solo (the last time he performed at the Coach House in the 1990s was with a full band) and showcasing his skills as singer, songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist. He opened with the beautiful "Blue Skies" and then picked things up with "You." Both songs provided a chance to hear some of Lofgren's wonderful early 1990s solo work before he introduced a song off his latest album, the aptly-titled "Sacred Weapon." He noted that "Frankie Hang On" was written about a soldier wounded, but in a hurry to get better so he could go back and rejoin his fellow troops again. But his wife didn't want him to go back. It was a serious moment, but Lofgren broke the ice when he apologized that David Crosby and Graham Nash (who sing with him on the CD) couldn't be with him on stage since they were busy with the current CSNY reunion tour. The song was delivered with the kind of emotional and melodic intensity that has matched his supporting work for Springsteen and Neil Young.

The highlights came frequently throughout Lofgren's set: "Girl in Motion" (his extended solo was a gem), "Keith Don't Go" (written for Keith Richards), and a blistering version of Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night," as well as his entire encore (which included an acoustic "No Mercy" and set-ending "Shine Silently").

There are those anxious for the Boss & E Street Band to regroup and play again soon. But I, for one, am glad Lofgren had a break from that gig to record an impressive new album and head out on tour. One of the best shows I've seen this year. Come again soon Nils...

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