Thursday, April 19, 2012

Concert Review: Nick Lowe at First Avenue

Taken with my IPhone last night.

I saw Nick Lowe in concert last night at First Avenue. It was a terrific show. It’s the 4th time I’ve seen Nick live, and he always puts on a great show. I missed Nick when he opened for Wilco last December, so I was very happy that he came to town again so soon. Nick performed with his band of Geriant Watkins on keyboards, Robert Trehern on drums, Johnny Scott on guitar, and Matt Radford on bass. They’re a great backing band, and Geriant is always fun to watch play keyboards. Lowe’s voice is in tremendous shape, and he knows exactly how to use it to get the desired emotional effects. He knows exactly when to turn away from the mike, how close to stand to it, all those little things that add so much to the emotional impact of his songs. 

Nick just has such a fun time performing, and he seems so genuinely thrilled by the audience’s response. He looked very sharp, wearing gray dress pants with a colorful shirt-almost a Robyn Hitchcock-like shirt. With his black eyeglasses and his gray hair he looks like a rock and roll version of how Cary Grant looked in the 1960’s. Nick dedicated “Cruel to be Kind” to Dick Clark, who died yesterday, saying that the song wouldn’t have been a hit without Clark’s support. Nick also talked about how happy he was to be starting the tour in the Twin Cities, and how much he likes playing here.

Even though Nick sang more than 20 of his very best songs, he has so many great songs that I can name a bunch of my favorite songs that he didn’t sing. He didn’t sing “Tonight,” “Marie Provost,” “Cracking Up,” “What’s Shakin’ on the Hill?” “Soulful Wind,” “You Inspire Me,” “Lonesome Reverie,” “Homewrecker,” “Let’s Stay in and Make Love,” “Indian Queens,” “Long Limbed Girl,” “People Change,” or “Hope For Us All.” I’m certainly very satisfied with the concert, but my point is that Nick Lowe is such a brilliant songwriter that he has enough great songs to fill two concerts. 

Nick changed a lyric in “Raining Raining” slightly, as “hungry lovers out back intent on sharing a snack” turned into: “hungry lovers out back already getting on track.”

The first two times I saw Nick in concert he performed solo, and he’s one of the few performers I’ve seen who can totally hold a room in the palm of his hand with just his voice and guitar. I was thrilled that he sang “Heart” solo, one of my very favorite songs of his. Other highlights were “I Read a Lot,” which is such a gorgeous, aching song, and the other songs from Nick’s latest album “The Old Magic,” “House for Sale,” “Somebody Cares for Me,” and “Sensitive Man,” all great new songs.  “The Old Magic” is yet more proof that Nick Lowe is reaching another creative peak as he gets older. “Tower of Strength,” a cover of a Gene McDaniels song was very lovely. I’ve never heard the song before, and only discovered the title through the magic of the internet. The encores were excellent, I always love hearing “When I Write the Book,” and of course “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” was a highlight. The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop as Nick sang it. One final highlight of the night was Nick coming back for a second encore to sing a solo version of Elvis Costello’s “Alison.” (Nick produced Elvis’s original version for his first album “My Aim is True.”) Through YouTube I had heard Nick sing “Alison” for a recent radio broadcast, and I was awestruck by his version. It’s fun to hear a very different version of such a great song. It was another great concert from Nick Lowe!

The songs that Nick sang:
Stoplight Roses-solo
What Lack of Love Has Done
Raging Eyes
Lately I’ve Let Things Slide
Has She Got a Friend?
I Trained Her to Love Me
I Live on a Battlefield
I Read a Lot
Cruel to be Kind
Raining Raining
Sensitive Man
Somebody Cares for Me
House for Sale
Tower of Strength-cover of a Gene McDaniels song
Without Love
I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll

When I Write the Book
(What’s so Funny 'bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?
Tokyo Bay
Go Away Hound Dog
Second encore:


Uncle E said...

I'm jealous. But, if I'm reading your track listing correctly, why did he snub the entirety of Jesus Of Cool?

Mark said...

E, you're absolutely right, Nick didn't play anything from Jesus of Cool. That's my only complaint about his live shows is that he really doesn't play much from the 70's. (Besides Peace Love & Understanding and Cruel to Be Kind, of course.) I wish he would pull out some of those older songs, I think they would still work, even if he re-arranged them. I'd love to hear him do Marie Provost, Cracking Up, Tonight, Born Fighter, some of those oldies. At one concert I saw a few years back he did play Heart of the City as a solo encore, and that was pretty awesome.

Anonymous said...

Man, Tonight would be a great one for him to try out now.

Jonathan Ferguson said...

Thanks for posting the review and set list. Do you know if Tokyo Bay is a cover or an original?

Mark said...

You're welcome Jonathan. I don't know where Tokyo Bay comes from. In doing some internet research I couldn't find anything about the song. Maybe it's a new, unrecorded original? That's just a guess.

Anonymous said...

I just saw him last night and heard Tokyo Bay and had to immediately look it up. Apparently it's a new song, and he played it as an exclusive web clip for Jimmy Fallon on Friday.

Mark said...

Thanks for the info Anon, that's a great clip of him doing "Tokyo Bay" on Jimmy Fallon! Maybe we'll have another new album from Nick in no time!

Mark said...

I saw the show in Atlanta, May 3. It was great. Had never seen Nick Lowe before and only became a fan after hearing the tunes on The Old Magic.