Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1979
This was my 8th visit to Reading. The line-up was a predictable mix of new wave and heavy rock. It was also a year of line-up changes. Two of the main bands who were billed to play: Thin Lizzy and The Ramones did not appear. Thin Lizzy pulled out at a few days notice due to Gary Moore’s departure from the band. Lizzy were replaced by Scorpions and The Ramones by Nils Lofgren. Both of these changes were major disappointments. The weather wasn’t bad and the event was well-attended, but didn’t sell out. My recollections of the weekend are below:
Friday line-up: Bite the Pillow, The Jags, Punishment of Luxury, Doll by Doll, The Cure, Wilko Johnson, Motorhead, The Tourists, The Police.
Friday was the “new wave” day. I watched all of the bands from Punilux onwards. Highlights were The Cure who impressed me even though the only song I had heard before was “Killing an Arab”, and Wilko and Motorhead, both acts going down a storm with the crowd, who preferred their rock heavier and more traditional. The Police were riding on the crest of a wave of success, and were amazing, Sting had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and the entire field sang along to the hits. It was great to witness a band at their peak.
The Police setlist: Deathwish; Next To You; So Lonely; Truth Hits Everybody; Walking On The Moon; Hole In My Life; Fall Out; Message In A Bottle; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; Peanuts; Roxanne; Can’t Stand Losing You; Landlord; Born In The 60s
Saturday line-up: Root Boy Slim; Fame; The Yachts; Little Bo Bitch (not sure that they played?); The Movies; Bram Tchaikovsky; Gillan; Steve Hackett; Cheap Trick; Inner Circle; Scorpions
We spent much of Saturday enjoying the delights of local hostelries and didn’t venture into the arena until later in the day. To be honest, looking at the line-up now, it was pretty uninspiring. We made it into the festival for Gillan onwards. Gillan seemed to play everywhere at the time, and were always good fun. I’d seen them so many times that I was getting to know the new songs, but I also always looked forward to hearing Purple classics, which they did including ‘Smoke on the Water”. Steve Hackett played “I Know What I Like” which prompted a mass crowd singalong. The highlight was Cheap Trick with crazy antics from Rick Nielson and an exquisite performance by Robin Zander. A video of their performance that night is on YouTube. You can find “I Want You To Want Me” here, a bit rough, but still amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTLEYcO2VnE
For the encore Cheap Trick were joined onstage by Dave Edmunds and Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs for a rendition of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. Classic 😄
Inner Circle’s reggae rhythms went down well. Scorpions were great (I really liked “Loving You Sunday Morning” at the time), but we were disappointed that we weren’t seeing Lizzy who had become a Reading favourite and were massive at the time.
Sunday line-up: The Cobbers; Terra Nova; Speedometers; Zaine Griff; Wild Horses; The Members; Molly Hatchett; Climax Blues Band; Nils Lofgren; Peter Gabriel; Whitesnake.
Sunday highlights for me were The Members who were in the charts with “Sounds of the Suburbs” and got a mixed reaction from the crowds with some people liking them, and others lobbing cans, and Peter Gabriel who started with “Biko” and played classic solo tracks like “Moribund The Burgermeister”, “Solsbury Hill” and “Here Comes The Flood”. Phil Collins joined Gabriel for the end of his set for “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. Whitesnake closed the evening and were worthy headliners (although they weren’t billed as so, with Peter Gabriel and non-showers The Ramones having shared top billing in the pre-festival publicity). They started with an amazing new song “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” which set the tone for the evening. Ian Paice had just joined on drums and Whitesnake now had three former Purple members (Coverdale, Lord and Paice).
Whitesnake setlist: Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues; Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City; Steal Away; Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick; Mistreated; Soldier Of Fortune; Love Hunter; Breakdown; Whitesnake Boogie.
An enjoyable Reading weekend, if not one of the strongest line-ups.
Archive for the ‘Nils Lofgren’ Category
The Who Wembley Stadium 18th August 1979
Support from AC/DC, The Stranglers and Nils Lofgren.
This was The Who’s first big gig with Kenney Jones as drummer. It was also the first time that the band were accompanied by a horn section, for some songs. A capacity crowd of 80,000 fans crammed into the old Wembley Stadium to see the ‘Orrible ‘Oo; accompanied by a strong support line-up. I went down to London with a group of mates on an early train. When we arrived in the capital some mates went off to Chelsea, as Sunderland were playing there that day. Those of us who weren’t football fans made our way to Wembley, in time to catch the support acts. Nils Lofgren was first on; I recall he had his small trampoline and did somersaults across the stage. AC/DC were great; this was the Bon Scott era band, who were just breaking big at the time. They started with “Live Wire” and played great classics like “The Jack”, “Highway to Hell” and “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Great stuff; really got the crowd going and, other than the Who, were the highlight of the day. The Stranglers were ok, but decided to make the brave move of playing mostly new material from “The Raven” album. This didn’t go down too well with the crowd. A big fight broke out on the pitch during their performance.
I’d arranged to meet my mates who had been to the match, at around 7pm at the back of the stadium. They arrived, quite drunk, full of stories of how the police had directed them into the Chelsea “Shed” section of the ground, where all the home supporters were standing. They stood through the entire match, surrounding by hard men Chelsea skinheads, not daring to speak in case anyone recognised their Mackem accent. If Sunderland got the ball they had to stop themselves from cheering, lest they revealed themselves to the skins. They seemed pretty shaken by the whole experience, but quite proud that they had survived and lived to tell the tale.
The crowd was very mixed; a collection of rock fans, a smattering of Hells Angels who were camped on the pitch just in front of where we were all sitting, and groups of “new mods” in parkas (this was the beginning of the mod revival and around the time of the release of the “Quadrophenia” movie). One of my mates, who had been to the match and was a little worse for wear, insisted on taunting the Hells Angels in front of us. Luckily they started to joke along with him, taking it all in good spirit.
The Who started with “Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain” and played well, although the sound wasn’t good at all. The crowd loved them, and gave them a “returning heroes” type welcome. I enjoyed the gig, but it wasn’t the best time I have seen the Who. We left during the encore ot be sure to catch our train home to the north, which was just as well, as there were massive delays getting to the tubes. The police diverted us away from Wembley Park tube station and round to Wembley Central. Although we left around 10pm, we arrived at Kings Cross just in time to catch the midnight train back to Newcastle.
Setlist: Substitute; I Can’t Explain; Baba O’Riley; The Punk and the Godfather; Behind Blue Eyes; Boris the Spider; Sister Disco; Drowned; Music Must Change; Magic Bus; Pinball Wizard; See Me, Feel Me; Trick of the Light; 5:15; Long Live Rock; Who Are You; My Generation; Dreaming From the Waist; Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Encore: Summertime Blues; The Real Me
Nils Lofgren Newcastle City Hall 1979
The last time I attended a Nils Lofgren concert at Newcastle City Hall was in September 1979. I have seen Nils since, as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band, but this was the last time I saw him in concert as a solo artist. Support came from Live Wire, a London pub rock band led by guitarist/vocalist Mike Edwards. Their music resembled Kilburn and the High Roads, or early Dire Straits. The tour was in support of Lofgren’s sixth solo album, simply called “Nils”. The strongest memory that I have of Nils concerts, is of Nils and his stage antics which were quite theatrical at the time and included a trampoline. For some crazy reason he had taken to having the trampoline on stage so that he could do body flips, while playing his guitar, ay various points in the show. He was obviously a pretty fit guy, but I remember thinking that it was a pretty bizarre thing to do. The trampoline gimmick stayed with Nils during his early days with Bruce and the E Street band. I’m not sure when he stopped using it, but I am pretty sure that he hasn’t done so in the recent Springsteen concerts that I have attended.
Nils Lofgren and Tom Petty Newcastle City Hall 1977
On a few occasions I have seen the support act clearly outshine the headliner. Lynyrd Skynyrd as support act for Golden Earring is one example. This pairing, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers supporting Nils Lofgren in 1977 is another. We’d read a lot about this new upcoming band who combined classic rock with the energy of punk, the Byrds’ jangling guitars, and a cool blonde-haired guy singing. I’d seen them on TV, probably on the Old Grey Whistle Test, and was blown away by the song “American Girl”. I remember being a little confused by the name, as I had just seen Johnny Thunders and his Heartbreakers in concert! So we made sure we were in the City Hall early that night to see Petty and his band. They certainly didn’t disappoint, and gave the crowd a set which Nils found difficult to follow. This was one of the rare occasions that I have seen the hall full for the first band, and the support act having to return for an encore. I saw Petty again the following year supporting Jefferson Starship and Genesis at Knewborth, but haven’t managed to see him since. I had a ticket to see him at the Albert Hall last year but couldn’t make it on the day, which is a big regret for me. I hope Tom returns to the UK sometime soon so I can have another chance to catch him in concert. The tour programme proclaims “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is purely and simply the best mainstream rock debut by any American band this year…” and that Tom is a ” grey-eyed offspring of Speedy Keene and Mick Ronson” :). This album, the single “American Girl”, the tour, and their appearances on UK TV broke Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the UK, and enabled them to go on to success in their home country and across the world. The UK dates with Nils were so successful that Petty and the guys were back a few weeks later to headline their own series of dates. From the Melody Maker at the time: “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers end their breakthrough British tour with Nils Lofgren this week — but the band return for their own concert series next month. The band’s phenomenal rise to headlining status has taken just three weeks. They came to Britain at the beginning of this month to play as support band on the Lofgren tour. Petty and the Heartbreakers, however, are ending the tour as one of the most in-demand bands currently playing in this country.” Nils was promoting his new album “I Came to Dance” and played an excellent gig, but was simply outclassed by the young guys who preceded him on stage that night. “I’m not Bob Dylan, but I never miss a beat. I ain’t no philosopher, I dance in the street. I came to dance…..”. The Lofgren set list at Newcastle City Hall 24th May 1977 was: Rock ‘n’ Roll Crook; Keith Don’t Go; Like Rain; Incidentally It’s Over; Goin’ Back; Code of the Road; Cry Tough; It’s Not A Crime; You’re The Weight; Moon Tears; I Don’t Want To Talk About It; Back It Up. Encores – Beggars Day; I Came To Dance.
The Tom Petty set list was: Surrender; Jaguar And Thunderbird; American Girl; Fooled Again; Breakdown; Listen To Her Heart; Strangered In The Night; I Need To Know; Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll; Dog On The Run. Encore: Route 66.
“I Need To Know” was a big favourite of mine at the time, and brings back happy memories. This was one of those gigs that still sticks in my memory and that I would love to relive if I could.
Many thanks to Mitch for the two setlists, which helped bring back some of the memories.
Nils Lofgren Newcastle City Hall 1976
Nils Lofgren had a serious pedigree when he appeared on the scene as a solo artist in 1976. This guy had played with Neil Young on After the Goldrush, he’d been a member of Crazy Horse, and fronted his own ban Grin. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I went to see him in 1976. I’d seen Springsteen for the first time the year before, and I thought that Nils could be of a similar musical bent, with the added attraction of his excellent guitar playing. Nils had just released his second solo album “Cry Tough”. The set featured songs from his first two records. I remember the song “Cry Tough” itself, a great version of Goffin and King’s “Going Back” and my own favourite, which was “Keith Don’t Go” a song about the stones’ Keith Richards and his drug bust in Toronto. Nils would wear bright Hawaiian style shirts and scarfs would be hanging from the head of his guitar. I went to see Nils a few times over those years in the late 70s, my mates and I were quite into him at the time. Support on the 1976 tour was a British band called Unicorn, whose music was reminiscent of Buffalo Springfiled, The Byrds, Poco, The Eagles and many other Country Rock bands of the 70. They released four albums with the help of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.