Nick Lowe, the headmaster of British rock. Plus support from Tom Webber. The Old Market 20 May 2022.
Nick Lowe, The Headmaster of Rock n Roll was back in Brighton at The Old Market. Tom Webber as guest. Over two hours of pure joy and quality.
Nicholas Lowe is a British singer-songwriter, musician and producer. A noted figure in power pop and new wave. Lowe has recorded a string of well-reviewed solo albums. Along with vocals, Lowe plays guitar, bass guitar, piano and harmonica.
Nick Lowe made a quiet and most dignified entrance to the stage at The Old Market, once he was spotted he was welcomed with a huge cheer resulting from a wave and a massive smile from Nick Lowe. I think that smile stayed set for the rest of the evening as it unfolded. The Headmaster of British rock was back in town!
Nick Lowe’s singing voice tonight was astonishing to listen to. This was complimented by the acoustics and sound mix at The Old Market. It was wonderful, everything was crisp and clear for this concert.
One song in, Man That I’ve Become, and us in the audience stood rooted to the spot, locked in by the performance slowly revealing itself. Here was a man in control of his class! The lyrics as he pointed out provide a chance to reflect and look back with the lyric that stuck in my mind “his heart’s a prune when it once was a plum”
He engaged with his crowd of fans with such an easy charm. I understand from a friend who was there that the last time he played was in 2019 with Los Straitjackets. Tonight – one man, a guitar, a load of songs, some humorous anecdotes and a smile that warmed the hearts of everyone.
Mr Lowe set about to deliver a totally on point selection of songs, old and new. He sings from within and fills the venue with his warmly toned voice and his acoustic guitar. He makes it look easy as he thumb picks and strums through his material. He has the techniques nailed; I guess he has been doing it for a while. The voice? Well it just seemed to grow and get stronger as the set progressed. He knows how to play that guitar and he knows how to use the mic. A winning combo.
The audience were somewhat all very calm early on but they, and I, were clearly having an amazing time.
Another highlight for me from the set was Far Celestial Shore – written for Mavis Staples! He recently found the handwritten lyrics in a guitar case. This was also performed by Emmy lou Harris. To hear Nick doing his song was superb. I have now listened to all three versions, all very different, and enjoyed them all.
As I said earlier, Nick clearly “understands” his audience completely. It was great to hear Nick talk about the history and making of his songs. It was if we had all popped in for a chat over a coffee as he revealed secrets of the stage, and as he admitted, he loved the chance to do a bit of name-dropping.
We didn’t get a helping of I love The Sound Of Breaking Glass tonight (his biggest UK hit), or the Rockpile cracker that is Girls Talk (Nick played Bass) but, as promised we did get some covers and that included Heartbreaker (Bee Gees and Dionne Warwick).
Heart Of The City was up, minus the intro drum pattern, but the guitar was there! Oh yes. Such a damn catchy song and Nick rocked us up good and proper with the almost punk sounding belter! Hearing it played on an acoustic just kicked a life spark into the song once again.
We had another cover dropped in, he did promise some, in with What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love And Understanding originally recorded by Elvis Costello on his Armed Forces album. Nick did write it. This one had the crowd swaying. Effortless and beautiful, what a talent! It is still sincere and relevant.
We headed to the set closer, the sublime I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll. Yep that did it! Nick Lowe has written more than a fistful of perfect songs and this is one of them. Not much encouragement required for the crowd to sing along, move those bodies and nod those heads.
Mr Lowe left the stage, not for long however, and he bounced back onto the stage still smiling and had his son, Roy, take up the drum kit. We had seen Roy earlier as he had picked up the sticks for the opening guest Tom Webber. Lowe’s songs are wondrous slices of unforgettable melody fired along by clever, finely-tuned lyrics. And as if to prove it…
Cruel to Be Kind, Trombone and, another cover, Alison (Elvis Costello).
The Headmaster left the stage, so that’s how it’s done! We have been educated. A great musician with a unique style. The crowd may be a little older these days but we are still cool.
A new visitor to Brighton and Hove, a brave thing to admit to a Brighton and Hove crowd. A young musician walked out onto the stage clutching a guitar. I had the opportunity to watch this short but engaging and warm set with a friend. Both of us noting things down, but I was with the camera!
We were offered a fine selection of self-penned titles and a cover of I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (Elvis Costello and Emmy Lou Harris and others, but interesting as Nick Lowe would mention both of those artists in his set).
Tom opened the evening with a low-key, but a most enjoyable performance that set the tone for the entire evening. I am pretty sure Tom majestically satisfied those who knew about him, and impress those who had never heard his music before. He impressed the hell out of us. As he took to the stage at The Old Market his look and appearance gave us an indication of where his influences might have come from. He has a passing look and sound mixing up some Chris Issac, the Everly Brothers and of course Nick Lowe himself.
The simple but effective lighting helped to build the atmosphere and actually raise up the songs in his set. Toms apparent enthusiasm for being able to play live again was clear to see. He was comfortable and at home.
Tom was joined on stage by Roy Lowe for the last songs of his set. It was the first time they had played together in front of a live audience. This was the first of his two appearances. These two musicians did a great job together. A startling set as Tom stood or sat on a stool to deliver his material. With more aces up his sleeves he, upped the tempo for the last three songs. There were those influences coming through and thought here were some songs that maybe Rockpile could have written and performed. Toms voice changed up as these songs were delivered.
He had clearly saved some of this livelier material to provide a memorable ending to his set, and with Roy on percussion it gave a little boost to the closing songs from Tom. Drifting Away From You, No Me And You and his new single, which is a cracker, I’m Yours. His Grandfathers love for vintage blues burst through and the voice and melody showed us what a capable performer and songwriter Tom is. Tom was concentrating on what he was doing but it also came across that he was rather enjoying himself on a stage again. A musician to keep an eye out for.
As we filed out of the venue the conversation was definitely focussing on the gig we had just enjoyed. Tom Webber was a great choice to open things up and for Nick Lowe. An outstanding night that thanks to the three musicians, Nick, Tom and Roy, for giving us a performance that ticked all the right boxes.
Thanks to Nick Lowe
Thanks to Tom Webber
Thanks to The Old Market
Words and Pictures: Ian Bourn
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