Sheldon Concert Hall
September 26, 2012
"I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll," sang Nick Lowe to wind down an hour of songs at the Sheldon last night. For its part, the not-quite capacity crowd knew the groom when he used to power, pop, pub and punk, when he used to answer to the title "Jesus of Cool."
Still, no one lamented the lack of a rhythm section, electric guitar or piano. Lowe's resurrection as the "Jesus of Croon" is unarguably one of the great second acts in semi-popular music.
Entering to "Starting All Over Again" by Mel & Tim -- if my ears didn't deceive me -- Lowe stepped into a disc of light and took up a shining Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar, a country-rock instrument if ever there was one, waved off the applause and without a word began with "Stoplight Roses," one of five exquisitely bittersweet ballads selected this night from his most recent album The Old Magic. Regardless of his permutations over a five-decades-long career, Lowe has held to one constant: good songs, always witty, winsome and elegant, even at their most satirical, even at their most deceptively slight or obscure. "You might call them fillers," he smiled. "I call them undiscovered gems."
Standing in crisp black slacks and a polka-dot shirt, sleeves rolled up over the wiry biceps of a public house arm-wrestler, Lowe is the hipster that time forgot, the singer and songsmith that a golden-age of beatnik-jazz balladry might have taken as its king. Second song "Heart" showed off his falsetto, a time-mellowed insinuation on the line "there is no other I can turn to." On this evening, in this hall, Lowe's voice was riveting: a lush, gentle, baritone murmur, and every phrase it touched turned to gold.
And the old cat knows how to work a room. "We've been touring sea to shining sea," he said, "and last night we were in Cincinnati. What a terrible audience. The half-eaten turkey sandwich backstage had more jump than that audience. More like Snoozinnati." Lest such banter make it into print - sorry, Nick - he reminded the crowd that he was only kidding, that he still had a few tricks in those rolled-up sleeves.
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