Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Nick Lowe has been a big part of British music—specifically rock, power pop and New Wave—since the ’70s, steadily releasing music and delighting fans across the globe. And despite the fact that his Christmas album, last year’s terrific Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family (stream it below), received terrific reviews—per Relix, “While Lowe’s recent critically acclaimed CDs have mined a mellow, melancholic mood, Quality Street sparkles with holiday cheer”—Lowe (above, performing “Christmas at the Airport” live in studio for WFUV FM) never toured in support of it … until now. In fact, Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue (which includes Los Straitjackets and the Cactus Blossoms) hit the road last week, and they’re headed our way not once but twice, on Sunday at The Bowery Ballroom and on 12/20 at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
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Mavis Staples is many things: a civil-rights icon, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an R&B, gospel and soul legend. Her entrance into the music world began in the 1950s as the lead singer of her family’s band, the Staple Singers, which included her father, the aptly nicknamed Pops, and his four daughters. They became known across the world thanks to hit singles like “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself” and “City in the Sky.” But despite her long career, Staples isn’t content to just rest on her laurels, playing the hits. Instead, she continues to record and tour. Her last two albums, 2010’s You Are Not Alone (stream it below) and 2013’s One True Vine (stream it below), each produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, gained a considerable amount of acclaim. And now she’s back out on the road. See Mavis Staples (above, performing “I’ll Take You There” on Later … with Jools Holland, and below, covering “The Weight” with Wilco and Nick Lowe) play Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Her goddaughter, Ollabelle’s Amy Helm, opens the show.
Nick Lowe & His Band – Town Hall – April 25, 2012
Nick Lowe strode across stage. At 63, he looks different than his younger self: thick-frame glasses and sculpted white hair give him an older, cartoonish appearance in comparison to his long-hair, bug-eyed days of the ’70s and ’80s. He is an acoustic-guitar man now with a classic sunburst model slung over his shoulder from beginning to end. And last night at Town Hall, it began with “Stoplight Roses,” a song from the new record, The Old Magic, that Lowe is keen to promote. “Quality entertainment is what we’re here to bring,” said Lowe. His pitch included mentioning being “on the radio and indeed the television” and optimistically stating, “record sales are up” since the start of the tour. It is delivered with a wink and a nod—the way Lowe usually tosses off subtle humor and pastiche candor.
But, aside from his joking, Lowe looked particularly pleased and suited for the Town Hall stage. He was quick to note the iconic significance of the venue and, with an acknowledging sweep of his hand, often took in the rows and tiers of audience members. It was a seasoned showman move of which he has many: big smiles, waves and witty banter. He was attentive to the crowd the way a talented dinner-party host makes everyone feel welcome. And mixing in “Cruel to Be Kind” and “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” with new songs, he managed expectations, giving fans what they wanted as well as what they might like. For Lowe, it’s been a long musical journey, but there are no signs of stopping. As long as stages will have him, he aims to perform. —Jared Levy
Nick Lowe has been making music for more than 45 years. The English singer-songwriter plays guitar, bass, piano and harmonica, but is perhaps best known as a producer—he worked on Elvis Costello’s first five albums—and as songwriter, cranking out hits for other people, like “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” and “Cruel to Be Kind.” But despite the long career and deep catalog, Lowe, above, playing “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, has remained relevant by pumping out new music, including last year’s The Old Magic. And now you can see Nick Lowe & His Band tomorrow night at Town Hall.