I think I finally had the opportunity to experience, for the first time in my life, true genius.
When I say true genius, I mean something that alters the way you look at things, appreciate life and especially the talents of others, what a human being is capable of.
It came in the form of music, live music.
I got the chance, after 50+ years, to see Nils Lofgren live, up close in concert.
Nils hosted an incredibly intimate and ingenious show at Talking Stick Resort, which happens to be in his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Some of you are probably saying to yourself, who the heck is Nils Lofgren?
Those of you who experienced deeply the music of our generation will know instantly who I am talking about.
Nils Lofgren is definitely not a household name (though he should be) nor is he a mainstream guitar hero in the music scene.
Nils has always been the consummate "sideman."
Lofgren's career as a rock 'n' roll aide-de-camp is one of the most remarkable in music history.
He was born in Chicago.
That's probably why I initially liked him.
I first listened to Nils in Grin, the early 70's band he fronted.
In the 70s and early 80s he played with numerous bands, but was probably better known for his early work with Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse.
He landed with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1984 and he joined them for the "Born in the USA" tour.
He played with Bruce off and on for almost 30 years.
His session work includes playing with not only Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young but many famous names you would instantly recognize: The Pretenders, Ringo Starr, Branford Marsalis, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lou Gramm and Steven Stills.
But, along the way, he's always recorded his own music, building a massive discography.
To me, that's the heart and soul of Nils Lofgren.
When you listen to his music you will find that he plays to our generation.
It's like listening to your best friend play for you in your living room.
An extremely talented best friend.
It was obvious, that was what the small audience watching Nils perform was feeling.
The stage set up was sparse with a few guitars, a collection of pedal effects, a small keyboard, a couple of monitors and gleaming gold harp.
Nils opened the show by quietly guiding the harp strings through the intro chords of "Too Many Miles" which savagely opened up into to his searing and haunting guitar work shattering this story of painful love tainted by the trials of life.
It was a show of contrasts, a mixture of intensities and an interplay between soft harmonic acoustic guitar work and a firestorm of electric fury.
Lofgren tore up the strings of his acoustic guitar on tunes like "You" and "Rusty Gun" where his partner on tour, Greg Varlotte, electrified the song with his Spanish tinged trumpet playing.
During "Dream Big, Stay Humble" and "I Came To Dance" Nils and Greg intertwined mellow acoustic rhythms with harp interludes, slashing guitar play and tap dancing.
Yes, I said tap dancing.
It was incredible.
Equally impressive was the way Nils worked the keyboards for what I consider true Baby Boomer standards "Goin' Back" and "The Sun Hasn't Set On This Boy Yet."
In "Goin' Back" Nils puts the stamp on what I think many of us aging rock and rollers feel deep inside us:
"I think I'm goin' back
Those days when I was young enough to know the truth
I think I'm returning to
To the things I learned so well in my youth.
Now there are no games to only pass the time
No more electric trains, no more trees to climb
But thinking young and growing older ain't no sin
And I can play the game of life to win.
A little bit of courage is all we lack
So catch me if you can, I'm goin' back."
Throughout the show, I found myself with a constant smile on my face, the kind that hurts because they last so long.
The entire show was pure, authentic, flawless entertainment.
It was equally amazing to leave the concert where I felt "the tank was empty."
What I heard, right along with an audience dominated by gray hair and faces furrowed with age, was an intimate set of songs, with basically no mainstream hits, that were surprisingly passionate and forceful.
Nils Lofgren is a Baby Boomer, just like us, and it's unfortunate that he has been overlooked for the talent and creativity he has brought to the music of our generation.
Sure, he rocked us down to our souls with Bruce Springsteen, but it is in his solo work that you find the most incredible songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and musical artist.
Even at the age of 63, you could tell that this was the same kid that, on his 19th birthday, opened up for Jimi Hendrix in concert.
This was the same kid that ran away from home, who snuck backstage at concerts and came to amaze his audiences with daredevil gymnastics and backflips.
And it doesn't look line Nils is going to slow down any time soon.
He is on tour to support his newest project "Face The Music" a retrospective collection of his work as a solo artist spanning over 5 decades.
It contains 10 discs of 169 songs, a DVD and a 136 page booklet.
There are very few artists that could have created such an enormous and talented portfolio of music.
What's even more amazing is that Nils did it while staying under the radar.
If I had to venture a guess, I think he wanted it that way.
Do yourself a big favor and check out his concerts when they hit your town.
At the very least, go hunt down some of his old vinyl, so you can listen to the breath and diversity of his talent.
Or you can come visit me and we'll listen to my albums.
Either way, make sure to listen to some of my favorite songs:
"The Sun Hasn't Set On This Boy Yet"
" Daddy Dream"
"Rock n' Roll Crook"
"Keith Don't Go."
Maybe you'll find yourself singing my Baby Boomer anthem in the shower like me...
So I went west
And I found out
Hope was all around me
And that's what life is all about
I'm back on my feet
Err, with no regrets
'Cause the sun hasn't set
On this boy yet