Nick Lowe Staring Los Straitjackets @ The Gov, Adelaide 23/2/2020

The support set tonight by Jim Lauderdale is a great opportunity to see one of the great bluegrass and country songwriters and performers. At times sounding like Gram Parsons (he’s even wearing semi-nudie pants), his songs are given as much performance time as the stories between. Among others, Gram Parsons gets a mention and Jeff Buckley is name checked as inspiring the song King Of Broken Hearts. Jim’s performance is very interactive and encouragement is given to the audience to participate in an almost gospel sing-along to his collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter Headed For The Hills.

Nick Lowe arrives on stage looking very much the elder statesman that he is, flanked by Los Straightjackets dressed in matching black suits and wearing Mexican wrestling masks that can’t be entirely comfortable under the stage lights. The chasm between the audience and seated tables becomes a makeshift photo pit for the first few songs that are a stylistically a fair selection of country and rockabilly.

After three songs, Nick then takes a moment to preface the rest of set as “at least three top 20 smash tunes” adding that even those unfamiliar with his work will know those tunes. He says he understands what it’s like to be in an audience and makes a joke that they should expect a couple of songs from the new album. You Inspire is introduced as a ballad and it is the kind of song that takes you back in time with the included vibrato guitar solos. There’s the rockabilly of Shting Shtang and another ballad in Raincoat In The River before the danceable Somebody Cares For Me during which Nick takes the opportunity to groove during the guitar soloing by Los Straightjackets.

Following the Eddie Cochran styled rock and roll of Tokyo Bay, Nick excuses himself with “Domo Arigato” and leaves the stage and the audience in the capable hands of Los Straightjackets. Within moments of commencing their instrumental set with Kawanga, the seated audience have risen and filled the area in front of the stage.

Aerostar follows in the same vein musically as some of the set with Nick that preceded it before there is a version of Friday On My Mind that has the audience supplying the vocals. Space Mosquito and Itchy Chicken are surf-styled pieces that sound exactly like you would imagine with titles like that. Itchy Chicken has included simulated animal noises (chicken squawking) on guitar along the lines of something that Adrian Belew would do and excerpts from Link Wray’s Rumble and Moon River before the prop of a rubber chicken (also in a Mexican wrestling mask) is utilised briefly to provide “vocals”.

Following this onslaught, Nick returns to the stage top resume the latter part of his set which includes Love Starvation and Blue on Blue from his collaborative EP with tonight’s backing band. It is around the time of the latter that the unrelenting pace of the previous set starts to noticeable wane although the next song Heart of the City does include an extended drum solo that lifts from the Beatles The End and Nick announces, “Ringo Starr”.

The set is rounded off with a selection of more familiar material with Cruel To Be Kind very well received (Nick is grateful that we have “remembered” it) and I Knew The Bride (Before She Used to Rock’n’ Roll) is the last song played before the band leave the stage prior to an encore.

This encore commences with Los Straightjackets returning first to play Sing Sing Sing, a song better known as being a big band jazz number, with the rubber chicken making another appearance and the band plays an excerpt from War’s Low Rider. Nick joins them to perform When I Write The Book and (What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love And Understanding to bring the set to an end. There would certainly have been people in the audience satisfied with Nick’s set list up until that point but the show isn’t over as he returns for a second encore for a solo acoustic performance of Alison. It had been a while since Nick last played Adelaide and after tonight’s show I’m sure that the audience would have been forgiving.

Live Review By Jason Leigh

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