Nick Lowe and the Los straitjackets
Old Town Folk Music School, Chicago, IL
Thursday, aAugust 4, 2022
Review by Jeff Elbel
Photo: Nick Lowe at Riot Fest 2019 (by Curt Baran)
Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets kicked off a lengthy tour of opening dates for Elvis Costello by warming up with a headlining return to the Old Town School of Folk Music. The set spanned nearly 50 years of songs, beginning with Lowe’s 1976 debut solo single, “So It Goes.” Lowe sang and played acoustic guitar, while the versatile quartet Los Straitjackets adapted their surf and garage-rock sound to amp up the Duane Eddy-esque twang in Lowe’s roots pop. At the start of the show, Lowe graced the crowd by expressing his undying love for Chicago and his affection for the venue. “It’s like a second home,” he said. The affable Lowe was in good spirits, cracking jokes and thanking the audience for filling the room on a weeknight.
Lowe sang “Ragin’ Eye” in his raspy but warm voice and continued with Carl Perkins-style country pop from 1979’s “Without Love.” work of lust. Afterwards, he described the band’s tour opener for Costello, taking a good-natured dig into his longtime collaborator’s relatively easy schedule, including frequent nights off. “We can’t afford to do this,” he says wryly. The economic necessity of sprinkling headlining dates between opening sets proved to be a win for any fan, as Lowe and the band went on to play a generous and adventurous batch of 27 songs. Lowe promised “at least two or three good hit songs”, as well as “some obscure songs for the more engaged”.
Lowe’s long songwriting career is notable for the absence of any measurable recession. The singer joked that longtime listeners shouldn’t shy away from the new material. “It looks like the old stuff,” he said. Although Stiff Records singles and vintage material to cool jesus Where work of lust may have been highly anticipated, later songs in Lowe’s catalog revealed a craft that was constantly refined. “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” from 2001 The Convincing was a perfect slice of country heartbreak, and 2019’s “Blue on Blue” was a tearful psych-pop.
While there were plenty of opportunities to indulge in Lowe’s delightfully discouraged way with sad songs, it wasn’t all gloomy. “Shting-Shtang” reveled in a stroke of luck. “The good mood I’m in gives way to love,” Lowe sang in the equally upbeat “Lay it On Me Baby.” “Somebody Cares for Me,” a fiery throwback to 50s pop, was a carefree celebration of new love, underlined by the intertwining guitars of Eddie Angel and Greg Townson.
After the rowdy escape from vibrant “Tokyo Bay,” Lowe gave the stage to Los Straitjackets, resplendent in luchador masks and matching black suits with medallions. Drummer Chris Sprague went wild during the adrenaline pumping surf of “Kawanga!” “Aerostar” was dreamy pop. Townson asked the crowd to sing the choruses during a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Venus.” Angel played hot surf guitar with stunts, comedic fillers and Dick Dale overtones during “Itchy Chicken”, accompanied by Sprague on rubber chicken (wearing his own little luchador mask). Los Straitjackets concluded with Lowe’s “Rollers Show”, joined by the author for the final chorus.
Highlights from Lowe’s second set included a cheery “Half a Boy and Half a Man”. The set culminated in a series of sing-along favourites, including the promised hits: ‘Cruel to Be Kind’, ‘Heart of the City’, 1974’s ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding and “I Knew the Bride (When She Was Rock ‘n’ Roll)” closed out a masterclass in thinking people’s pop. A pair of new songs, including Kinks-style “Jet Pack” and “I Went to a Party,” were performed earlier, promising a higher quality for the new music to come.
Lowe returned as an encore with Rockpile’s sublime “When I Write the Book”. He urged the crowd to sing along and took a comedic swipe at a former band member. “It’s as simple as that,” Lowe said after demonstrating the piece. “Even Dave Edmunds could do it.” The gag caused a great laugh, had the whole room singing and ended the evening on a euphoric note.