(ST. LOUIS, MO) Written on separate pieces of sheet paper, the individual portfolios of British singer/songwriter Nick Lowe and Nashville-based surf rock quartet Los Straitjackets are equally impressive.
For Lowe, it includes years of seasoning with the band Rockplie in the mid-1970s, songwriting credit for Elvis Costello’s cover of his self-penned “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” in 1978, and an ensuing solo career that generated a worldwide Top 20 song, 1979’s “Cruel to Be Kind.” In addition, numerous credits as a producer include his polish with Rockplie bandmate Dave Edmunds, The Pretenders, Graham Parker, The Damned and Johnny Cash.
For Los Straitjackets, the lucha-masked instrumentalists have keenly cobbled their respective trade over the last 35 years, thanks to both solid musical chops as well as showmanship. The group have released 15 studio albums and an octet of live platters over time and have built quite a cult following. They also readily admit that they are fans of Lowe.
In the mid-2010s, both forces combined out of mutual respect and collaborated both in studio and onstage. It seemed like it was music’s version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: two great tastes that go great together.
This was on full display as the co-op billed as “Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets” performed at Delmar Hall in the U-City Loop Tuesday night to a near-capacity crowd. Instead of separate acts with separate sets, this was a performance that had all participants simultaneously onstage.
The collective glided through a tightly-packed, smartly-constructed 26-song performance that clocked in at 95 minutes and showcased their respective portfolios.
Launched with Lowe’s 1976 debut solo single, “So It Goes,” golden tones were set early.
“We’re gonna play some older ones and newer ones, although our newer ones sound like older ones,” joked Lowe.
Currently a spry 74 years old, Lowe still possesses vocals smooth as silk and was enthusiastic through the early stages of the performance that featured various nuggets from his four-decade’s old music treasure box.
Eight songs deep, Lowe handed the reigns over to Los Straitjackets to push their surf sonic. Propelled by founding member Eddie Angel’s fret work, the quartet plowed through five tunes straight, led off by their signature ditty, “Kawanga!,” supplemented by their take of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” and punctuated with their comedic, entertaining staple, “Itchy Chicken.”
With additional crunch and twang from long-tenured bassist Pete Curry, guitarist Greg Townson and drummer Chris Sprague, the output was clean, well-performed at the luchadores’ level and highly-applauded by the crowd.
Lowe rejoined the four-piece for the back-half of the main set, which leaned heavily on his most-successful body of work. A chugging “Cruel to Be Kind,” a slower-tempo version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” and a rollicking “I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock and Roll)” brought the main portion to a satisfying end.
Thanks to lengthy applause by the multi-generational audience, a three-song encore ensued. After Los Straitjackets strummed a cover of The Ventures’ “Driving Guitars,” Lowe re-appeared and the unit played “Christmas at the Airport,” to which the silver-haired singer hinted that the group would be performing the ditty later this holiday season on a CBS-TV variety show (one plum-reckons it will be on a late-night talk show.)
The encore concluded with another Lowe entry from his Rockpile years, “When I Write the Book,” which resulted in a chant-along with those familiar with it and those that quickly caught on.
Alas, that was not the finale. A second encore would take place and Lowe came out solo with acoustic guitar and performed “Heart” – a final nod to his early-songwriting days – for a capper.
In short, Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets was a fun show at Delmar Hall. Lowe turned back the hands of time with his solid collection of ageless songwriting and Los Straitjackets successfully paired with the Brit to provide the backbone of rhythm, while simultaneously showcasing their high-octane surf when presented at the forefront.
It’s quite rare to see a pair of totally separate musical complexions team up for a successful collaboration.
Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets have definitely set the benchmark.
The tandem performs Friday and Saturday at Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota.
For more info on Nick Lowe, go to his official website.
For more info on Los Straitjackets, go their official website.
1) So It Goes
2) Ragin’ Eyes
3) Without Love
4) Lately, I’ve Let Things Slide
5) I Live on a Battlefield
6) Somebody Cares for Me
7) I Went to a Party
8) Tokyo Bay
11) High Wire
12) My Heart Will Go On
13) Itchy Chicken
15) House For Sale
16) Lay It on Me Baby
17) Half A Boy and Half A man
18) Blue on Blue
19) Cruel To Be Kind
20) Heart of the City
21) (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
22) I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock N’ Roll)
23) Driving Guitars
24) Christmas at the Airport
25) When I Write the Book
By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.