Written by Mike Koehler Wednesday, 03 October 2012 08:10
None of the songs lost their impact and charm by not having the accompaniment of his band.
The Sheldon, St. Louis
Even in his sixties, Nick Lowe oozes more coolness than most of the “kids” in music do these days. He still has a swagger in his step, and the same eternal teenager gleam in his eye as he did in the late ’70s and early ’80 s. He may be silver haired now and wearing some (pretty swanky) specs, but he still has the air of hipness to him that just is hard to match.
Lowe is chameleon-like musically, in that he varies his styles from pure power-pop to rockabilly, country, almost two-tone ska, lounge, and torch songs. He has effectively blended them throughout his career—hell, even within the same album sometimes. His hits are wonderful, but it’s the lesser-known songs that are really his treasure trove. His later career has presented Lowe more as the wizened, older crooner who is part storyteller and part romanticist.
He genuinely looked to be having fun performing for us, and appeared to be very gracious for the enthusiastic reception he received all night. He was especially pleased with the Sheldon. He even made it a point as to how swanky the place was, as he was too used to the “sticky-floored dives [his] manager seemed to like booking him in.” While not a sellout crowd, there was a lot more people in attendance than I anticipated. It was a very eclectic mix of young and old(er), blue and white collar.
Though not touring in support of his last album per se, 2011’s The Old Magic, Lowe was still promoting it, in fact, playing almost half the songs. (It really is a fantastic album; I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.) The set was just Lowe and his acoustic guitar. His more recent songs like “Stoplight Roses” and “Long Limbed Girl” translated very well to a live setting, especially in a place like the Sheldon. None of the newer songs lost their impact and charm by not having the accompaniment of his band or the string and horn arrangements that are on the album. His older tracks, those typically of more of a rock format, sounded fantastic acoustically, as well.
Although banter rests were minimal, when they appeared, Lowe captivated the audience with his rapier-like wit, including cracking wise that Diana Ross’s ill fated attempt at “I Live on a Battlefield” paid for a new bathroom, and how “terrible” Cincinnati’s audience was the night before, comparing their lack of jump to a half-eaten sandwich backstage…all in jest, of course. As Lowe has gotten older, his voice has gotten richer, and it was in prime form here. He sounded warm and schmoove, but was still able to hit the higher notes when needed. He never seemed to lose any steam throughout his set; in fact, he looked like he could have gone on much longer.
Standout performances were “I Trained Her to Love Me,” “Without Love,” and “Tokyo Bay.” “When I Write the Book” and “Peace, Love, and Understanding” were both crowd favorites and exceptional performances, as well. Lowe’s delivery on his more melancholy tunes such as “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” and the closer “Allison” was heartfelt, the hurt conveyed with honesty. In the vicinity of my seats, people were genuinely emotionally touched by these songs. At several points through the night, you could hear a pin drop, as everyone was so focused on watching Lowe’s commanding performance. His intentionally snarky performances on “I Trained Her” and “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” were not only highly entertaining and fun, but also made his down-tempo songs feel even stronger. He delivered his bigger hits with just as much zeal as if they were brand new.
Bottom line: an outstanding show that was not to be missed. Great artist, great venue, great night. | Mike Koehler
Shakin’ on the Hill
Long Limbed Girl
Lately I’ve Let Things Slide
She’s Got Soul
I Trained Her to Love Me
I Live on a Battlefield
I Read a Lot
Cruel to Be Kind
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Somebody Cares for Me
House for Sale
I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock N Roll)
When I Write the Book of Love
(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding
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