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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
NICK LOWE AND HIS BAND
The Royal Festival Hall, London, October 23rd 2007
I don’t think you get much casual trade at a Nick Lowe gig, especially not at the recently refurbished Royal Festival Hall on London’s arty South Bank. We’re mostly all of a certain age and probably beyond the point at which we could be called ‘fans’, having in some respects all been through too much together and managed, more or less, to come out on the other side. Muppet
So the interval is almost like a reminiscence therapy session – and have you noticed Serge, how loudly blokes like to reminisce at gigs? The two behind us are talking high volume, hard core bollocks – “Never thought I’d see the day when we’d pay to see Basher in a place like this”, “Yeah, or be here with all these middle classes”, “It’s never going to be as good as that night down the police club”, “Yeah – I mean do you remember when we’d go down to gigs like that at the Ricky Tick club”, “Always with knives, pills, and birds”, “And some top nights in Leytonstone…”, “Of course she never liked us going there”, “Seen much of your kids since the divorce?”, “Not really, how about you ...?” So it goes.
Nick Lowe
At My Age (Nick Lowe)
Lowe has just released a new album, the first since 2001’s The Convincer. At My Age is a perfectly crafted piece of work – nine original songs and three covers, including a country meets skiffle version of Charlie Feather’s ‘The man in love’ and “Not too long ago” – originally performed in 1965 by Joe Stampley and the Uniques but sounding every bit like a Lowe original. Of the Lowe compositions ‘I trained her to love me’ (the song that drew some sharp intakes of breath when we first heard it performed at the Barbican – more middle classes – a few years ago) is probably the one that stands out most. But actually they’re all – characteristically of Lowe’s compositions - so good, so economic, so precise, so perfectly produced, and so carefully performed, that they provide a complete and compelling body to the evening’s set.
It’s not quite the studio band on stage – long time collaborators Robert Treherne – aka Bobby Irwin - (drums) and Geraint Watkins (organ and piano) and new boy Matt Radford (double bass) are there, but in place of Steve Donnelly on guitar it’s sometime Van Morrison band-member Johnny Scott. And for songs like ‘A better man’, ‘Long limbed girl’ and ‘Other side of the coin’ (written originally for Solomon Burke) there’s a brass section, featuring Martin Willing on tenor sax and clarinet and Annie Whitehead on trombone (in place of blues veteran Chris Barber who features on the album). Lowe normally performs solo these days, but he likes to put a band together for “special occasions” – and this is very special, even if an irritating hum from the sound system does take away some of the glow.
Nick Lowe
Oh, and I should have said that the new Lowe songs follow his well-established groove of lost love, regret, hope, fear and all that other universal stuff that makes them so attractive. And – in case you’re wondering he’s gone on record as saying that he doesn’t hate women – “but singing about people who hate women is very good fun”. He kicks off solo with ‘People change’, ‘Soulful wind’, ‘What’s shaking on the hill’ and ‘All men are liars’ before being joined by the band. “Welcome”, he explains, “to an evening of first class light entertainment”, before the band tear into ‘Without love’ (the other Lowe song recorded by Johnny Cash), ‘Lately I’ve let things slide’, ‘Has she got a friend?’ and ‘I trained her to love me’. To be frank most people could have stopped at that and felt pretty pleased with themselves. Lowe and his band continue with ‘Indian Queens’, ‘Cruel to be kind’, a studio perfect version of ‘You inspire me’ and then five in a row from At my age, before ‘Shting shtang’, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, Lowe’s Rockpile classic ‘I knew the bride’. Solo, Lowe finished the set with that song – twelve years in the writing, his Jekyll and Hyde classic that formed the centrepiece of Johnny Cash’s American Recordings – and you could have heard a pin drop as he sang the final lines of ‘The beast in me’.
The vacuous veterans behind us leave to get their buses back to the lonely suburbs as Lowe returned for a solo ‘Heart of the city’, played ‘What’s so funny about peace love and understanding’ with the band and then finished solo again with Moon Mullican’s rockabilly hit ‘Seven nights to rock’. It’s a standing ovation – and quite rightly so, for the variously described “Headmaster of rock”, “Jesus of cool”, and “PhD of pop”. With his unmistakeable haircut, unmistakeable voice, quite excellent band and perfectly hand-crafted artisanal songs Lowe is a performer of huge accomplishment. You should buy his new record, and if you get the chance to see him, then go. Isn’t that right, Serge? - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate) Nick LOwe
Kate's Nick Lowe photo album



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