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sledding

Nick Lowe, Atlanta GA, May 3, 2012

I’ve mentioned before how I prefer to see live music in smaller venues. It was nice to see Bob Seger on his last tour, but it would have been better had I remembered to take binoculars. Also, in most cases, the sound is better in these small places. Well, I had just about the perfect seat when I saw Nick Lowe at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. One of the advantages of going to a show with general admission by yourself is that, since people sit with their friends or dates, there is often one seat left between two groups. This is what happened to me. I found a spot in about the seventh row, right in the middle.

I haven’t been following Nick Lowe through the years; only recently become a fan. One Sunday Glen and X Ray played “I Read a Lot” on their radio show. I was amazed. It’s an achingly beautiful tune:

I read a lot, nowadays

Much more than before you left me high and dry

In a loveless land

With nothing but time on my hands.
I read a lot, not just magazines
,
But other more serious things,
to get me through the day

Nighttime too

Whilst wondering how in the world
to go on without you.
"Lonely" isn't the word for me now

"Blue" doesn't describe it somehow
I read a lot, I can't put it down

While others are painting the town,
you'll find me in a world 
of fantasy.

Population: one. That's me
So if you ask me how I stop

Contemplating what I now have not

I'll reply, 
I read a lot

Soon I realized that all the tunes on his new album “The Old Magic,” were (OK, I’ll say it) magic.



In Atlanta, he started out solo, with his acoustic guitar, playing “Stoplight Roses,” and “Heart.” He can hold an audience in the palm of his hand with just his guitar and his voice. Then the band came out: Geriant Watkins on keyboards, Robert Trehern on drums, Matt Radford on upright bass, and Johnny Scott on guitar. The interplay between the musicians, especially Scott, Watkins, and Lowe, was special. The only thing I could ask for more would have been a horn section, but perhaps that would have just muddied things up a bit.

Lowe has a gift for pacing: he mixes up the slow tunes with the upbeat ones to perfection. He did a lot of slow tunes, but also had people dancing in the aisles and shaking their tail feathers with pieces like “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll.” The version of "I Trained Her to Love Me" was sultry, and naughty, I'm tempted to say.

Lowe is also charming. He had funny stories for each member of the band that he introduced, and his banter between tunes was endearing.

It’s cliché to say “one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to,” but I can say it in this case. In my experience, even though you enjoy a show, by the end of it you’re usually tired and ready to go home. At this show, I was still full of energy and enthusiasm as he exited the stage after playing Elvis Costello’s “Allison” acoustically for the second encore. The only reason we didn’t clamor for more was that we figured that the guy deserved a rest.

If I have the chance to see him again, I’ll leap at it.

Photos up at Mondo Marco

Set list:

1. Stoplight Roses
2. Heart
3. What Lack of Love has Done
4. Raging Eyes
5. Lately I’ve Let Things Slide
6. Has She Got a Friend?
7. I Trained Her to Love Me
8. I Live on a Battlefield
9. Cruel to be Kind
10. I Read a Lot
11. Raining, Raining
12. Sensitive Man
13. Somebody Cares for Me
14. House for Sale
15. Tower of Strength (Gene McDaniels cover)
16. Without Love
17. I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll)
18. Only a Rose (duet with Geraint Watkins)
19. What’s so Funny (About Peace, Love, and Understanding)?
20. When I Write the Book
21. Tokyo Bay
22. Allison

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