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Lowe gets on with tour

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, December 15, 2014

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Nick Lowe made reference to the downer that's been a most unfortunate part of his Quality Holiday Revenue, not exactly the time of year when music, particularly of the holiday variety, should be sad.

But veteran British keyboardist Ian McLagan, who was slated to open the tour, died of a stroke as the tour was opening two weeks ago.

After coming on stage solo with acoustic guitar in hand to play "Rose of England" and "Heart," the typically jovial, humorous Lowe took a moment to acknowledge the obvious - the passing and loss of McLagan, who was a member of Faces.

With that, Lowe proved his ever engaging self in a series of pop, country leaning and rocking songs with chunks of help from his backing band for the tour, Los Straitjackets.

Lowe reached back in his catalogue for such songs as "Seven Nights to Rock," "Half a Boy," a very different version of "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll)" and the ever bouncy sing-along "Cruel to Be Kind."

But he also played a chunk of songs fm last year's "Quality Street" holiday season release with such songs as "A Dollar Short of Happy," a song Lowe co-wrote with Ry Cooder, the ska-leaning "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" from British band Wizzard and the closing song of the night, "I Was Born in Bethlehem," done solo acoustic. This was not your typical Christmas fare, but a most welcome breath of fresh air as a result.

Los Straitjackets stepped on stage with some mystery, but not when it came to their music. The quartet wore matching suits and red and white striped ties with Mexican wrestling masks covering their faces. They don't talk at all, not even to introduce songs, although they bowed in thanks. (drummer Chris Sprague did sing occasional backing vocals for Lowe and hammed it up big time with a lot of humor after taking a solo).

Fortunately, their silence was relegated to patter because their playing was superb. Their basic sound is spaghetti western instrumentals with a lot of twang courtesy of ace guitarists Eddie Angel and Greg Townson. And they even merged that with the Xmas spirit by playing "Sleigh Ride" from their own holiday album during several stretches onstage where Lowe took a break.

McLagan's death offered one twist of fate benefit - The Cactus Blossoms opened a chunk of shows on the tour. Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum from Minnesota did a mighty fine job of setting the table with Burkum's traditional country vocals sounding just right.

Torrey supplied backing vocals on a chunk of the songs, recalling another set of brothers, The Everlys.

With many songs justifiably in the slower mode, The Cactus Blossoms mined a traditional sound with a mournful delivery, something not heard all that often today in country.

Following in the spirit of McLagan, the Blossoms and Lowe followed the late musician's probable desire - "Get on with this tour," Lowe said in his opening remarks. McLagan would have been proud.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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