Live Review: nick lowe geraint watkins forum

9 April 2012 | 11:15 am | Staff Writer

Waxing lyrical at the electric piano, Welsh pianist Geraint Watkins is telling a very long story about his adventures in the outback as we are shown to our seats. Watkins is Nick Lowe's keyboard player but he has tickled the ivories for many illustrious rockers such as Paul McCartney and Van Morrison. After much talk he concludes his warm-up set with a rollicking yet quaintly old-fashioned ragtime boogie version of Elvis classic Mystery Train, which comes complete with a wooden whistle that emulates the wheezy whistle of a steam train.

The lights go up to reveal a gaggle of sexagenarians who eagerly await tonight's headliner Nick Lowe. Into his 60s, the one time Elvis Costello collaborator confidently strides on stage and deals an elegant and gently heartbreaking version of Stoplight Roses from his latest album The Old Magic. This is quickly followed by Heart, a song from his old band Rockpile that were around in the late '70s and early '80s. What Lack Of Love Has Done sees Lowe joined by his band to deliver a gloriously bittersweet moment of country pop reminiscent of seminal country acts like Leon Payne wrapped up in the pop styles of Johnny Mathis and Roy Orbison. Lowe's modest, understated presentation of his seemingly simple pop tunes is effortless. Tonight's set is a generous offering of 23 songs that showcases Lowe's brilliantly observed lyrics about love going wrong. As Lowe moves from the deep sadness of Lately I've Let Things Slide to the emotional declarations of war on I Live On A Battlefield, he presents a picture of someone for whom romantic encounters have inevitably ended up in tears or simply gone very wrong. Flexing considerable songwriting muscle, Lowe allows himself to travel across complex emotional territory on his newer material and, in doing so, it seems that he is ageing gracefully.

Pausing briefly, he tells us we are almost halfway through the show and that now would be a good time to break out the sandwiches and thermos. The second half of the show adopts a brighter tone and it is here that Lowe deals his biggest hit, Cruel To Be Kind, which always had a Dave Edmunds twang about it. Surprisingly, Lowe doesn't allow the show to become a greatest hits rendition and I Love The Sound Of Glass is a glaring omission from tonight's setlist. As the set progresses, Lowe and his band push out a vintage rock'n'roll vibe with the gently rocking and rolling House For Sale sounding a lot like Fats Domino before a cover of Frankie Vaughn's Tower Of Strength, which was written by Burt Bacharach. The rockabilly bounce of I Knew The Bride brings to mind Chuck Berry's Never Can Tell. It's enough to bring the crowd to their feet, cheering for more.

Watkins and Lowe deal Only A Rose for their first encore, but it hits such sad and empty notes that it serves to bring everyone down. A dreamy version of What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding? has the crowd begging for more. Lowe does not disappoint, returning with a spellbinding version of Elvis Costello's Alison.

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