Cool, elegant and sometimes beautiful to cry: Nick Lowe gave a concert in Berlin. Getting older suits him perfectly.
White mop of hair with a suggested quiff and a gentle voice for which others would have to eat chalk: Nick Lowe. Image: Promo
Getting old has really scared him. "I didn’t want to become one of those old geezers with thinning hair and sagging jowls who kept on pulling the same old act they had when they were young, slim and beautiful," Nick Lowe confessed a few years ago.
Phew, just in time, and he did everything right: Getting older suits Nick Lowe just fine, you’d think, as he so buoyantly walks down the aisle of Berlin’s Passion Church. A shock of white hair with a hint of a quiff, Buddy Holly glasses, a well-fitting polka-dotted shirt and a smooth voice that would make others eat chalk until it came out their ears.
He had last been in Berlin 20 years ago, and even then he could look back on a varied career. Lowe had a hand in the decisive pop movements in the kingdom in the seventies, as a musician, songwriter and, above all, as a producer of Elvis Costello’s first albums, for example. In 1979 he married into the Carter Cash clan, his music countryfied, and family head Johnny ennobled some of Lowe’s songs with his bass baritone.
Repertoire from 40 years
Now, at nearly 65, happily escaping the "tyranny of the snare drum," Lowe has discovered the crooner in himself. In Berlin, accompanied by himself on acoustic guitar, he plays his entire repertoire of the past 40 years in a new, time-removed, classic way. It sounds as if Sam Phillips had just promised him a record deal, Carl Perkins sometimes smiled at him from the side, Sam Cooke pushed the songs and Nat King Cole slipped into him.
He sings with the gesture of a soul singer and the smoothness of a bossa nova interpreter. He traces every word devotedly, the timing instinctive, the phrasing beautiful enough to make you weep; the voice whispers and seduces and sometimes floats away domeward with a drawn-out syllable, quite effective even in the somewhat reverberant church.
Where other pop singers have sung their organs to pieces or drunk them away over the years, Lowe’s seems to be getting softer and softer, emphasizing the quiet melancholy of his lyrics so casually that for a moment you could believe in the perfect pop song. "I Read a Lot" from the last album "The Old Magic", a jazzy abandonment ballad, comes very close to that in any case. Soul, R&B, Rockabilly – you may call it retro, but Lowe’s precise and sensitive performance gives the songs a timeless shine.
The Jukebox Style
In the old days, he jokes, you had to play one short song after the other quickly so that people wouldn’t get bored and throw things at you. That danger certainly no longer exists today. But he has retained the "jukebox style. And so it goes rapidly from "Raging Eyes" to "Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day" or "Sensitive Man" to the encore "(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding", the Lowe classic par excellence made into a hit by Elvis Costello.
The old magic really works. When Jochen Distelmeyer was asked in an interview a while ago about favorite musicians, the name Nick Lowe came up first and foremost: "songwriting-wise", no one is currently working at this level, Distelmeyer said admiringly. Lowe’s record "The Convincer" is "very cool, without exhibiting coolness in any way, very elegant, very skilful". The Berlin performance could not be summed up better: cool, elegant, skillful. One would only have to add that Lowe’s concert was beguiling and delightful on top of that.