Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Nick Lowe
Saturday, Oct. 2, 2:50pm
Rooster Stage
Reviewed by Nick Dedina

Close to 3pm, the air is heavy and dark with a wetness that cuts right to the bone. With no introduction, Nick Lowe nonchalantly walks on the stage with his guitar looking like it was a summer's day on the Costa Del Sol. Clad in an elegant short-sleeved shirt and dark sunglasses sliding into his silver mane of hair, Lowe resembled a handsome version of character actor Semour Cassell -- an old smoothie half-concealing the fact that he's the smartest guy in the room. Besides being one of the few punk-era rockers to age gracefully, Lowe's voice has only grown stronger over the years, as evidenced by the first two gospel flavored numbers the stately "God Sits at the Conference Table' and the joyous rocker "Soulful Wind" (which is the first of many Lowe cuts to get the ladies dancing).

Saying, "I wish I brought my woolly with me," Nick warms up the crowd with the mid-tempo "What's Shakin' On the Hill," and "I've Let Things Slide," a tender, self-deprecating ballad with a touch of old Mexico that illustrates Lowe's mastery of wringing emotion from his straightforward, "just the facts, Ma'am" lyrics. There were plenty of people in the audience who obviously came just to see Lowe (many of whom looked like they weren't even born when he was busy energizing the English pub rock and new wave scenes of the 1970s) and new scorchers like "Winning Hand" were treated as enthusiastically as old Lowe radio hits like "Cruel to Be Kind," "I Knew the Bride When She Used To Rock'n'Roll," and "Half a Boy and Half a Man." A gracious charmer, Lowe had his keyboardist Graham Watkins perform a number of his own ("Only a Rose," a torchy bar ballad) before he went into his own "You Inspire Me," which Watkins embellished with a tasty Errol Garner style jazz piano solo. As most performers did during this year's festival, Lowe ended things with some pointed social commentary.

Written for Elvis Costello, who famously performed it at a furious tempo, Lowe's hushed but searing reading of "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding" held seemed like it spoke for the majority of the audience, who became deathly quiet and still until its completion. Then they roared into wild applause as Nick Lowe just walked off the stage with the same unflappable manner that he came on with. A class act all the way.

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