It’s safe to say that at 66 and still performing as visceral as ever, Nick Lowe reigns supreme as Jesus of cool.
For the second annual tour of Lowe’s “Quality Holiday Revue,” the new wave phenom teamed up with surf-punk backing band Los Straightjackets for a night of holiday standards and Stiff Record favorites at the El Rey Theatre this past Thursday night.
“We’ve got a really fun and funky night planned for you,” said Lowe as opened the show with favorites from his storied catalogue. “With this tour, we don’t know what’s going to happen. Well, actually we do – so don’t let that throw you off too much.”
Priming the audience with solo acoustic versions of classics such as “People Change” and “A Dollar Short of Happy” (co-written with Ry Cooder) Lowe’s genial nature as one of the most professional chaps in rock was made evident.
As Lowe unleashed the suited and Luchador mask-clad Los Straightjackets on the stage, the “Revue” officially began, the band pounding out holiday standards and tunes from Lowe’s 2013 Christmas record.
Los Straightjackets proved to be paramount in keeping Lowe the most ebullient live holiday program in Los Angeles, pulling out all the stops one can expect from a Tennessee-based garage rock band operating under a Mexican aesthetic.
From a punk version of “Linus and Lucy” to a torrid and choreographed number set to “I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass,” Los Straightjackets offered the perfect companionship to Lowe’s stage show, performing in more dynamic syncopation than perhaps an old Stiff cohort could offer (Apologies, Declan McManus).
Lowe rounded out the show with some crowd pleasers, busting out “Half A Boy and Half a Man” and dropping some knowledge about peace, love and understanding.
The obligatory standards weren’t haphazard rehashes of the apex of Lowe’s popularity in the late ‘70s. Rather, an aged Lowe utilizes his insightful wordplay and charming imagery to cultivate his image as the predecessor for alt – rock troubadours with a healthy sense of humor. More than ever, Lowe comes off as the pre-Wilco model.
There’s very few times where a themed holiday show allows the audience to elicit a response outside of cheering for what ends up as pure cheese. Lowe, however, bypasses any drivel. By making it less of a “greatest hits and some songs I think are great” situation, Lowe does what he knows best – entertains the hell out of crowd and takes a back seat while the younger cats work their magic. Rave on, Nick.