Nils Lofgren’s earlier band Grin had some teeth, but for the most part, I find his solo records to be lacking any of that. They’re not bad so much as they are just lacking in anything ecstatic. That makes Night After Night a bit of a surprise. Steven Kurutz at allmusic.com calls the record “not an inspired effort,” but to me that better describes Lofgren’s studio records, not these live performances (culled from three shows) that transports the listener right into the venue, combining both arena boldness and small club intimacy. From the improvised Star Wars reference in “Take You to the Movies” and on throughout the record, Lofgren and his band obliterate the barrier between artist and audience, even those of us listening at home over four decades later. It has all of the beautiful imperfection and inspired beauty that comes with live music and yet is so seldom caught on live records and is precisely where most live releases miss the mark.
I never really understood what landed Lofgren his gig in the E Street Band until hearing this record. Unlike Springsteen, Lofgren doesn’t reproduce that combination of everyman appeal and raw energy in the studio, but he certainly does in his live shows as documented on Night After Night.