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British singer-songwriter Nick Lowe and his band played the mixture of fast and slow songs Thursday night at Turner Hall. (PHOTO: Erik Ljung)

Lowe engages Turner crowd

When Nick Lowe initially took the stage Thursday night at the Turner Hall Ballroom, he didn't say a word. Starting off the show alone with a guitar, he launched into two numbers.

Now in his early 60s, Lowe has been performing live for over 45 years and he clearly believes in letting his music do most of the talking. However, when Lowe did talk, he was remarkably engaging.

After playing his opening two songs, Lowe took the time to acknowledge the large crowd and was completely upfront about the night they were in for. He explained that this was the second night of his U.S. tour and that the main reason for his tour was in support of his most recent album "The Old Magic." Lowe then declared that he was "happy to report that record sales are up, but they can always be a bit upper," showcasing his wry sense of humor.

In what was essentially a blueprint of his set, Lowe shared that he and his band would be performing a number of songs from "The Old Magic," but that he was aware that the audience wanted to hear his older songs too.

After imitating a hypothetical audience member disappointed by such news, Lowe assured the quality of his new material but promised that he'd also weave in some of his established work throughout the night. The transparency and openness that Lowe displayed was very refreshing and after this wonderful explanation, he was joined on-stage by his band and got back into his set.

While the songs he played from The Old Magic such as "House For Sale", "Stoplight Roses" and "I Read a Lot" are slower, mellower tunes, Lowe evened that out with many faster songs from throughout his career.

Lowe did play his biggest hit, "Cruel to be Kind," which received a big response from the Turner Hall crowd. While the show was a seated affair, there were a number of individuals who stood up and danced for this song. Surprisingly, there was also a small smattering of people who left at this point after hearing the song they knew.

During the middle of the show, Lowe took a brief break to go around the stage and introduce each member of the band. As opposed to just saying their name, Lowe took the time to share a brief detail or tell an anecdote about each of his fellow players.

The most amusing tale was his story about the band's drummer, Robert Trehern, who Lowe met when a studio musician bailed on him for a session. The studio's engineer recommended Trehern to fill-in, so Lowe walked a few blocks to meet him. When Lowe showed up at Trehern's house, Trehern mistook him for a potential customer and the first thing he said to Lowe was "it's 12 quid an ounce".

After returning for the encore, Lowe and his band continued the mixture of fast and slow songs. The highlight of this final batch of songs was "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."

While many know the Elvis Costello version of the song, it was actually Lowe who wrote it and recorded the original version with his band Brinsley Schwarz back in 1974. While Lowe played for about an hour and a half, since he didn't waste time introducing each song, he got in the same number of songs that a standard two-hour show would typically have.

Lowe's friend/Milwaukeean Paul Cebar opened the show. After playing some of his original songs as well as a cover of the Magnetic Fields song "Book of Love," Cebar then made an unorthodox move for an opening act: he covered one of the headliner's songs. Cebar explained that Lowe's manager has encouraged opening acts on this tour to pick a song to play from Lowe's catalogue.

After expressing his honor to be able to do such a thing, Cebar performed a beautiful cover of "Crying in my Sleep." Cebar and Lowe made an excellent pairing and it was neat to hear both performers express such reverence for one another during their individual sets.


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