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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

The Barbican, London - Monday March 14th 2005 - by Nick Morgan

Nick Lowe  

As far as I can remember my first intimate moment with Nick Lowe went like this. I was browsing through the vinyl 45’s in the Stiff Records Shop in Convent Garden one Tuesday lunchtime (yes youngsters, this is how we used to download our fave tunes in the olden days) when Wreckless Eric burst through a door pursued by Nick Lowe and a tear-gas spray. Once round the shop and they departed through the front door, shortly followed by me, tears in my eyes, no vinyl in my hand.

Well that’s my 1978 story and I’m sticking to it. So it goes …
Since then our relationship has been mediated through vinyl, tape and CDs, and a couple of memorable London gigs over the past six years when Lowe, King of Cool that he is, has blown away audiences with a tighter than tight band supporting his brilliant voice and songwriting skills. But tonight intimacy is restored at the Barbican as the Nickster is solo (unplugged, as they say, despite all the plugs) for about two thirds of his set, before he is joined on stage by outstanding grand slam pianist and long-time collaborator Geraint Watkins. And despite his alleged nervousness (“all I want to do is bolt for the door with a fag and my hand and a large Scotch at the bar”) this is not a man who’s cracking up, in fact he is obviously occupying a comfort zone larger than the size of a tennis court.
I would be surprised if somewhere in your music collection you don’t have some of the following: a Nick Lowe album (Impossible Bird would be best, but anything would do) or single (I know Serge’s favourite is ‘What’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?’ but personally I can’t help liking ‘I love the sound of breaking glass’); a band featuring Nick Lowe (Brinsley Schwarz, Rockpile, Little Village); a Nick Lowe produced album or single – by Graham Parker and the Rumour, Elvis Costello, The Mavericks, Dr Feelgood, Wreckless Eric, John Hiatt or the Pretenders (‘Stop your sobbing’) etc.; or a recording of a Nick Lowe song, and if I mention Johnny Cash singing ‘The Beast in me’ on the first volume of The American Recordings (some say he only married Carlene Carter in order to get her dad to sing this song) then that’s probably enough isn’t it ? Actually if you don’t qualify in any of the above categories then dump the questionnaire and move on bro’, as we relationship marketeers sometimes say.
It has to be said that the Barbican is not a cool space for a cool Brentford boy like Lowe in his white shirt and pleated Italian trousers, but he fills it with his lazy acoustic guitar thumb-picking and strumming technique, and his deeply soulful voice, which got stronger in depth and range as the night went on. He knows how to sing and how to use a microphone, but occasionally the magnificent Barbican sound-system gets the better of him (did we really hear the gnashing of his false teeth on the beautiful ‘Shelley my love’?).   Nick Lowe
The set was made up largely of classics from the Lowe songbook, with an emphasis on his last three albums, – ‘You inspire me’, ‘Soulful wind’ ‘Lately I’ve let things slide’, ‘I knew the bride (when she used to rock and roll), ‘I live on a battlefield’, ‘Indian Queen’s, ‘Cruel to be kind’ – and a few covers, John Hiatt’s ‘She don’t love nobody’ and Watkin’s pretty song ‘Only a rose’. But he also road tested a few new compositions intended for a new album (“my manager keeps on telling me that its four years since the last one”) including Bingo (not well received), ‘The other side of the coin’, and the hugely misogynistic ‘Trained her to love me’ (believe me its rare to have a whole audience gasping and wincing at the audacity of a performers lyrics as they did when he spat his way through this one). “There’s one for all you girls,” grinned Nick as he finished.
Nick Lowe   Perhaps not surprisingly the audience were somewhat Barbican-restrained but (full hall – all seats sold) they were clearly having a wonderful time (including one of the world’s leading experts on intellectual property law, who I bumped into in the gents. Ah – the unifying power of rock and roll) relishing the wit and wryness of Lowe’s lyrics, the remarkable rhythm that he drives through the evening, his infectious passion for his music and general good humour, and his occasional classic rock star poses (yes, I suppose I must mention the quiff at this point). So even though some booed when he ended with only a short encore (last song, naturally, ‘The Beast in me’) everyone left with a smiling face...
That is, until some French bloke (captured with unerring accuracy by my cub photographer) tried to pinch a souvenir from the merchandising store ….. - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate except CD cover)

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