Friday, April 11, 2008

Near Devastation Is Just Total Devastation In Grey-Flannel Slacks (UPDATED!)

Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that you're not alone. I experienced a subtle frisson of fan-boy glee and smug self-congratulation when I read Ben Ratliff in the New York Times calling the Nick Lowe show I saw the other night "nearly devastating." Me, I'd go so far as to strike the "nearly." But I'm sure Times editorial standards require a certain reasonable restraint. Otherwise you're just blogging, right? And the "nearly" qualifier makes it that much more devastating anyway.

I've loved Nick Lowe for a while, but had few to share my enthusiasm with until the other night at the Manhattan Center. I mean, yeah, you guys have listened to me bark about him at TDSP, but I didn't get the sense everybody was rushing to join the chorus. Then again, he doesn't inspire that kind of overt raving. It's a private affair. Secret handshake music. And that was the essence of Nick's program: just a man and his guitar on a dark stage, a singular presence with a rare magnetic command that you associate with very few. How did this dapper Brit so naturally and authentically come to inhabit the blue-note phrasing of George Jones and Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke? You hang on his every note. That he does it in a starched white shirt and flat-fronted grey-flannel slacks only accentuates the curious genius. He's got some of the best lyric phrasing I’ve ever heard. I "nearly" crumpled at "Shelley My Love," a song I discovered the next morning was recorded on his 2004 live album, Untouched Takeaway, a close approximation of what I heard. He played all these:

Shelley My Love (Live) - Nick Lowe

I Live on a Battlefield (Live) - Nick Lowe

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding? (Live) - Nick Lowe (Yes, he wrote this.)

Cruel to Be Kind (Live) - Nick Lowe

Oh, the picture? Only the moment Nick was joined by Elvis Costello (left) and Robin Hitchcock (right) for a cover of the Beatles' "If I Fell." Um, I "nearly" cried with joy. Strangers had to recognize each other in wide-eyed wonder at this rare and "near" historic moment. In fact, the young gal in front of me agreed to email some pictures she snapped. Blurry, but perfectly captures the energy of the show in a way a clearer picture would not. (Thanks, Sonya.)

PS: I HIGHLY recommend buying Nick Lowe's 2001 album, The Convincer.

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