[photo by Thomas Hawk]
Remember when we had a contest for tickets to the Robyn Hitchcock/Nick Lowe show at the El Rey?
Well, we had a winner, his name is Mark, and here’s his review of the show:
The Nick Lowe/Robyn Hitchcock show at the El Rey on 4/11 drew in seemingly every fortysomething nerd in all of Los Angeles. I’ve been a fan of Hitchcock since I was a teen and had seen him headline a half-dozen concerts already, so I was wary about his “opening act” status (although he received equal billing, it was clear that most people were there for Nick Lowe). Hitchcock emerged alone on the empty stage with an acoustic guitar and launched into an old favorite, “Heaven,” followed by what is possibly his best-known song,”Balloon Man.” Over the course of his 45-minute set, he trotted out a couple of newer tunes along with at least one real rarity (“The Ghost Ship,” the B-side to “Balloon Man” way back in 1988), and treated the audience to his usual assortment of funny surreal stories and one sudden, unexplained departure from the stage, mid-song, for about 10 seconds. Was it just a joke? Maybe.
My wife was getting over a cold, so I promised her we’d only catch 15 minutes of Nick Lowe before leaving. Like Robyn Hitchcock, Lowe played his acoustic alone on the empty stage. My knowledge of his music doesn’t extend much past “Cruel to Be Kind,” but it was quickly apparent that the rest of the audience was much better informed. You gotta figure that, after a 30-year career, the man would amass a lot of devoted fans, and they rapturously applauded his every song.
Lowe’s music, to me, feels like what Buddy Holly would sound like if he never got on that plane in 1959 and perhaps started writing songs with Paul McCartney: expertly crafted ’50s-throwback pop, flawlessly performed by a consummate professional.
It was interesting to compare Nick Lowe to Robyn Hitchcock. Both tall, thin, prematurely white-haired English geezers, Lowe is in many ways the Gallant to Hitchcock’s Goofus. Compare Hitchcock with his unkempt ‘do, his wild polka dot shirt, his nasally voice, his constant guitar tuning and his propensity to forget his own lyrics to the neat-and-tidy Lowe’s dulcet tones and focused, highly confident performance, and it’s like watching a pair of brothers: the clean-cut one you’d take home to mom, and the weirdo who – in my opinion at least – remains the more fascinating character.