You Probably Can’t Tell in This Photo, But I’m Doing All I Can Not to Plant a Kiss on Nick Lowe’s Cheek
I’ll share some thoughts on seeing Nick Lowe and his band at the Keswick Theatre, in Glenside, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia and a stone’s throw away from where I spent 12 years in lower, middle, and upper school, sometime later, when I can catch my breath. Mad props! to Philly music and film writer extraordinaire Sam Adams for providing me this opportunity.
UPDATED: My review follows the jump…
As I marveled at Nick Lowe and his subtly rocking and informed band run through an overview of his solo career and some old-time chestnuts at the Keswick Theatre, I realized the key to Lowe pulling off such genre-rooted music is how lithe a performer he is. His voice skips above and dips under the rhythm, avoiding the pitfalls of bar-band aspirations of authenticity. He’s physically as limber as ever, with his left leg twitching to the beat. His stage banter is witty and delivered with the perfect combination of showmanship and sincerity. The craftsmanship of his songs is upheld by the care given to all aspects of his performance. A 45-year career as a professional performer should add up to a well-oiled show, but Lowe performs as if he’s got 90 years of experience.
Lowe and his band (including longtime drummer Bobby Irwin and keyboardist Geraint Watkins, whom Martin Belmont raved about in these hallowed Halls) brought it down, raved it up, and covered a range of rock ‘n roll moods in between. The band hit all its consistent and expected arrangement marks—highly anticipated details like the descending run at the end of the guitar solo in “Cruel to Be Kind” (arranged along the lines of the Brinsley Schwarz version, which Nick and his band confirmed backstage was initially modeled after The Sound of Philadelphia)—but they dug deeper when called upon to highlight a song’s plot. The best example of this was a version of “I Trained Her to Love Me,” which had me grinning ear to ear. Every detail of the song was salaciously lingered over in a way that was both comic and cutting. It was a masterstroke—and it was good old rock ‘n roll.
Show opener Tift Merritt, a petite woman accompanied by a second acoustic guitar/pedal steel player, performed a solid set of rhythmic country-rock. Going into the show I knew absolutely nothing about her, not even her gender. She was mildly concerned about/amused by the fact that few in the audience knew her music, but her first impression on me was positive. She mentioned having opened for The Jayhawks last time she was in town, and she’d fit right in with them.
Sam was nice enough to bring me as his rock nerd date. They gave him backstage passes and he was just going to let it go unused until I told him you should have it.
In that case I owe you one as well. Thank you very much. Clearly you know how much it meant to me, but that was really nice of you guys.
I have this odd fear of meeting musical heroes backstage. I freeze up and often stick my foot in my mouth. If Nick Lowe, say, came over toi my place for dinner, that’d be a different story. Anyway, I know you are the most uber-Lowe fan out there and felt you would get much more enjoyment mileage, as it were, out of it.
Very good photo — I have a photo of myself with exactly two musicians — Dave Alvin and Kelly Willis and I have the fanboy gush face in both.
Glad to read you liked Tift Merritt — the live album she put out a couple of years ago called Buckingham Solo is a nice overview of some of her best stuff.
You’re lucky you got to see him with a band, because he plays solo a lot these days.
That’s why I wasn’t going to muss him this time.
I saw him last time he was in town a year and a half or so ago (I think). He was with band and I agree it was a terrific show. His banter was terrific. Geraint was the warm up.
I saw him with my wife who also is a big fan. We also saw him warming up for Costello in Englad on our honeymoon. That was in 1989. What a show that was as well!
Sadly, I think I missed his stop here in Minneapolis this time around.
What were his thoughts on the whole Joe Walsh thing?
He said he lost interest after Don Felder left.
First saw him with Rockpile in 79/80-ish, with his 8-string bass, (it might have been six, it was a long time ago and I spent the whole set in awe of being about three feet away from NL and Dave Edmunds simultaneously), again supporting Dylan at Wembley in about 84, several times at Glastonbury.
He always comes over as a really nice bloke, a real old-school English gent, and I love him for that as much as his music.
Nice review. We were also at the show as well and your assessment is spot-on, Mr. Mod. While we also liked the 2007 solo show at World Cafe Live (the only other time we’ve seen him), I thought that this was better. I liked Tift Merritt enough to buy one of her albums. She reminded me a lot of Neko Case. I knew her gender, but not much else about her going into her set.
You’re a lucky guy, Mod.