Review: Nick Lowe, Queen’s Hall

Nick Lowe has five decades of hits to choose from for his live set

Nick Lowe has five decades of hits to choose from for his live set

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You’ll know the name, and many of the tunes too, but chances are you might not know Nick Lowe’s face, despite the fact he’s been making music for five decades. That’s because some of his best-known songs have enjoyed their greatest success in the hands of others like Johnny Cash and Elvis Costello.

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If anything though, that’s probably been a blessing in disguise, allowing the sixty-two year old to dictate his own direction and be his own man. Having made his name in the seventies both as a pub rock star and a pioneer punk producer with The Damned and Costello, he’s since made a conscious effort to grow old gracefully, unlike many of his peers, leading the New York Times to describe him as “The Man Who Used To Rock”.

It’s little surprise then that tonight he offers up a clutch of tracks from his most recent album, 2011’s The Old Magic. “Don’t worry,” he smiles reassuringly. “It won’t be too dreary. They’ve all been hand-picked, just like a Sainsbury’s jaffa.” And once our laughter dies downs, we realise he’s right, with tracks like Sensitive Man, House For Sale and the excellent I Read A Lot proving far from dreary.

Louche and playful, there’s an ever-present hint of mischievousness in his songs (and a twinkle in his eye) which effortlessly combine classic fifties rock, country and rhythm ’n’ blues, and mark him down for serious consideration as Britain’s best balladeer.

It’s not all recent work however, although rockier hits like (I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass and So It Goes are sacrificed, while others like Cruel To Be Kind are delivered in a sedate, low-key manner, before the set highlight – a Chuck Berry-esque version of I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ’n’ Roll).

Two well-deserved encores ensure an airing for classic (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, before the white-haired singer rounds things off with a beautifully simple cover of Elvis Costello’s Alison. The Man Who Used To Rock? That’s not strictly true. Nick Lowe still rocks, just at his own pace.

Keith Smith

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