NICK LOWE + TOM WEBBER – THE OLD MARKET, HOVE 20.5.22
Friday night in Hove’s TOM (The Old Market) and the joint was jam-packed with long-time Nick Lowe fans. An air of post-pandemic joy, optimism and anticipation floated through this good-sized venue on the last night of his tour, we were all looking forward to a great evening.
The last time I saw Nick Lowe at Hove’s TOM in 2019 he was on tour with Los Straitjackets, an instrumental rock band from the US, (Brighton & Hove News review HERE) tonight he would be playing solo. I remember thinking then how accomplished an artist he was, erudite and stylish, as a musician, man and performer. He struck me as being unlikely to suffer fools gladly and his laid-back, dry humour was definitely accompanied by a mischievous, knowing twinkle.
At this stage in his career Lowe can afford to relax and twinkle, and what a career it has been! Most of the audience last night were familiar with Lowe’s life in music but you may not be. Starting out with school friend, Brinsley Schwarz, in the late sixties playing country and bluesy pub rock, Lowe wrote ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’ and ‘Cruel To Be Kind’. In 1975 Lowe moved to become bass player with Dave Edmunds in the band Rockpile, and he also started producing at Stiff Records at this time, producing albums for both Elvis Costello and The Damned. Lowe’s production skills were to become as well-regarded as his songwriting abilities and over the years he has worked with many great artists. In 1977 Lowe’s Bowie influenced ‘I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass’ became a top ten single on the UK Singles Chart and in 1979 ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ reached no 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In 1979, Lowe married country singer Carlene Carter, Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter. Carter and Lowe remained friends after divorcing in 1990, and Lowe stayed close to the Carter/Cash family. He played and recorded with Johnny Cash, and Cash also recorded several of Lowe’s songs.
Other projects Lowe has been involved in over recent decades have included The Cowboy Outfit, which featured Paul Carrack on keyboards, and his band Noise To Go. His recent albums have included songs which echo vintage country, soul and R&B but all are written in the inimitable Lowe style.
Last night Lowe wasted no time, he ran on stage, plugged in his guitar and quickly launched into ‘Man That I’ve Become’ a country song and a description of a certain type of grumpy older man “his heart’s a prune when it once was a plum”. It is difficult to believe that this is autobiographical, but maybe Lowe recognises himself in this man from time to time, or maybe not… A cheeky heckle from a guy in the audience showed that someone else recognised themselves in his lyrics anyway. The audience gave Lowe a loud, appreciative welcome and elicited a broad smile from Lowe, who said he was pleased to be back in this gem of a venue in Brighton for his last tour date.
Lowe gave us a beautifully balanced solo set of lively, rocky songs contrasting with thoughtful ballads and older, well-known numbers sprinkled with new songs. He often interspersed songs with entertaining and humorous tales. Favourite numbers for me were ‘Long Limbed Girl’, a wistful pop song about discovering a photo of an old girlfriend and wondering where she was now; ‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day’ a lovely ballad about finding a way into a girl’s affections over time and ‘Let’s Stay In And Make Love’, another slow and poignant love song. Favourites like ‘(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’, ‘I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ sounded great performed solo and roused the audience to sing along.
Lowe’s covers were beautifully performed, including his stripped-back rendition of ‘Heartbreaker’ gave the Bee Gees song an honesty and clarity which the original had lacked. He had recently discovered the lyrics for a song written for Mavis Staples whilst on tour with Wilco, the famous American alt rock band, and not ‘the Canvey Island telecaster spanker we all know and love’ as Lowe explained. This gospel song ‘Far Celestial Shore’ had been written at Staples’ request and Lowe was honoured that she had recorded it, he urged us to listen to Mavis Staples’ version later.
Ending the evening with ‘I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock ‘n’ Roll)’, and heartfelt cheering from the enthusiastic crowd, Lowe was soon back on stage with his son, Roy, on drums, to entertain us with encores of the popular ‘Cruel To Be Kind’, ‘Trombone’ and finally a cover of the Elvis Costello song ‘Alison’.
The audience filed out slowly, contented that they had spent a wonderful evening in the company of one of the UK’s most prolific and talented musicians over the last 60 years. His large catalogue of work had been well-represented and we had revelled in it, a class act. We all wished Nick Lowe well on this last night of his solo tour, as he ‘folded up tents, gathered up wives and goats and headed towards the Sevenoaks by-pass.’
Nick Lowe setlist:
‘Man That I’ve Become’
‘Long Limbed Girl’
‘Lately I’ve Let Things Slide’
‘I Live On A Battlefield’
‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day’
‘Lay It On Me Baby’
‘Heartbreaker’ (Bee Gees cover)
‘Somebody Cares For Me’
‘Blue On Blue’
‘Far Celestial Shore’
‘When I Write The Book’
‘Let’s Stay In And Make Love’
‘Heart Of The City’
‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’
‘ I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock ‘n’ Roll)’
(encore) with Roy Lowe
‘Cruel To Be Kind’
‘Alison’ (Elvis Costello cover)
For more information on Nick Lowe, visit nicklowe.com.
First up last night was a fresh-faced young singer called Tom Webber. A confident twenty two year-old, clean cut and good looking, with a neat quiff, Webber calmly settled on his stool and sang a set of eleven mainly self-penned songs in his clear voice to a very happy audience. It was great to see that since the pandemic, audiences had been watching support acts from the start, obviously hungry for live music. Prior to the outbreak of Covid, venues had often been sparsely peopled for all support acts, so this represented a welcome change.
Webber’s father’s love of 50’s rock’n’roll and his grandfather’s love of vintage blues plus the three CDs he possessed, ‘The Best Of The Beatles’, ‘The Best Of The Beach Boys’ and ‘Divine Madness’ constituted his main musical influences as he grew up. Webber started out busking in Oxford, initially playing covers but increasingly composing his own material. Webber sang well last night, clearly enjoying opening for Nick Lowe and sounding on occasion like various early 60’s pop icons: Sam Cooke (‘Martha’), Buddy Holly (‘I Am What I Am’) and Dion (‘Stop And Think About It’). Roy Lowe joined him on drums for his last four songs, adding another layer of sound to the simple, pleasantly enjoyable set. ‘Martha’ and ‘No Me And You’ were my personal favourites of his set. Webber’s final song was his latest single ‘I’m Yours’ which was released yesterday, a poppy, crowd pleasing and catchy love song. Tom Webber gave us a tasty aperitif, whetting our appetite for our main course and the audience showed him their appreciation.
Tom Webber setlist:
‘I Am What I Am’
‘Stop And Think About It’
‘Close The Door’
‘Here With Me’
‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ (Bacharach & David cover)
‘Drifting Away From You’
‘No Me And You’
Find Tom on Instagram HERE.