Kids notwithstanding, I went to the Nick Lowe concert that I'd been so looking forward to.
Downside first: Apparently Nick doesn;t come out to sign autographs. That was a dissapointment. One of the nice things about being a fan of musicians who are, to be polite, not at the peak of popularity, is that getting autographs or a simple handshake is relatively possible. Oh well.
I was in the tenth row, near the center, in a venue that doesn't really have any bad seats. I wasn't as close as I was at the recent Wreckless Eric concert, but I was close enough to see Nick's expressions, and to feel that I was truly seeing him (as opposed to ants at a distance or an image on a jumbotron. Nick performed solo. Just him and an acoustic guitar. For some reason I thought he'd have a band behind him. No matter.
Predictably, Nick concentrated on songs from his cronner era, which is generally placed at The Impossible Bird and everything since. Disagreeing with conventional wisdom, I don;t think of Bird or his subsequent album, Dig My Mood, as part of that era; they were kind of transitional. I think the crooner stuff began with The Convincer. That would mean it currently consists of that lbum, At My Age and The Old Magic.
He opened with "Stoplight Roses" from Magic, and also did "Sensitive Man," "Somebody Cares for Me," "I Read a Lot" and "House for Sale." from that album. There may have been others -- I wrote down titles as he played the songs (there were 21 in all, including two encores), but I am writing this from memory. There was also "I Trained Her to Love Me" from Age, "Lately I've Let Things Slide" from Convincer and "Soulful Wind" and "I Live on a Battlefield" from Bird. About the latter song, Nick told the audience that Diana Ross did a cover of it. It wasn't her finest hour, he said, but it did buy him a new bathroom.
But along with the new, he did play some older Rockpile-era (and even pre-Rockpile-era) songs. The second number he performed was "Heart" from the Rockpile album, and he did "When I Write the Book" from that album as well. At other points he performed "I Knew the Bride," "Raining Raining" and "Without Love."
"(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace Love and Understanding," another of his early numbers kind of annoyed me. He has explained in many interviews that it was written as a sarcastic piece, poking fun at hippies. When he did it with Brinsley Schwarz it had a certain acerbic bite. That was accentuated when Elvis Costello covered it turning it into a real snarling thing. But after 9-11 it has been retrofitted as a serious plea -- sort of Nick's answer to John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." And, of course, in this day --when we are at war, with the situation worsening in post-war Iraq, and talk of possible forays into Syria or Libya or Iran -- such a song goes over quite well in deep blue area like Port Washington. But I see the plea as very simplistic. I would prefer the sarcastic version of the song.
After performing his one US hit, "Cruel to Be Kind," Nick noted that some of his contemporaries feel trapped by their lone hit -- they have to keep playing it over and over, and they don't like it. (Was that, BTW, a jab at opening act Jim Keller who didn;t play "867-5309/Jenny"?) But he still loves to play his hit. And that was a good example of Nick's charm with the crowd. His between-song patter was relaxed. He talked about how this was his first time playing in the area (Port Washington specifically, nit the whole New York metro area). He then went on to note that the mayor of some town in the upper west -- he named the town, but I don't recall -- picked him up at the airport, that some other town in Nebraska is the home of the Nick Lowe sub sandwich. But here he is unrecognized and can walk down the street undisturbed. He hopes, he said, to change that.
I will say that I thought Elvis Costello's "Allison" was an odd choice to end the show. Why such a downbeat vinegary close?