Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets at The Orange Peel, Asheville NC
I Love The Sound Of Wrestling Masks
It had been less than a year since I saw Nick and the Straitjackets at the much smaller Grey Eagle in Asheville. It was a great show and I was 20 feet away from the great man himself. But since then, they’ve released the ‘Tokyo Bay’ double 45 (see our Podcast at www.tinyurl.com/tokyolowe) and will have the new Love Starvation EP out soon, both on North Carolina’s Yep Roc Records.
At the larger Orange Peel, seated in front, sightlines were awesome and the lighting and sound first class. Los Straitjackets (Chris Sprague - Drums and Backing Vocals, Pete Curry - Bass, Greg Townson - Guitar, and Eddie Angel - Vocals and Guitar) were decked out in their trademark Mexican wrestler masks and playing their custom Dipinto surf guitars. Nick had his Gibson J200 acoustic and was in fine voice.
They started with a crowd pleasing ‘And So It Goes,' then straight into “Ragin Eyes.’ one of the cuts I discussed in my Nick Lowe 1980’s greatest hits playlist blog (www.tinyurl.com/zubbasher ).
Nick and the band seemed to be really having fun with each other, and were very appreciative of the enthusiastic crowd. Nick early on told a funny story about the worst thing ever said on stage: ”We’re going to do a new one.” He assured us that all the songs were about two and a half minutes long so you wouldn’t have to wait forever if there was one you didn’t like. The towering, Everly-like ‘Without Love’ was a real standout. Seeming throwaway ‘Shting-Shtang’ was a pleasant rhythm and blues workout.
From the new upcoming EP, we heard a lovely cover of ‘Raincoat In The River’ by “Australian Cliff Richard” Dig Richards, proving that Nick doesn’t just know how to write them, he knows how to pick a great cover as well. Starting with “I’ll be a long, gone daddy…” Nick and the Jackets tore through the rockabilly ‘Tokyo Bay,’ sounding every bit as good live as on record.
Then, as on last tour, Nick was off the stage and the Straitjackets got their own mini set of explosive and funny surf tunes. Highlights included a clever take on the Game Of Thrones theme, the craziness of ‘Itchy Chicken,’ and The Hollies’ ‘Bus Stop.’ They were a ball of energy, never missed a note; the crowd went wild.
Nick walked back onstage to the ending strains of ‘I Love the Sound Of Breaking Glass,’ and picked it right up. Playing two stellar songs from the new EP, ‘Love Starvation,’ was masterful, but ‘Blue On Blue’ was a stunning ballad both timeless and remarkable. His voice and lyric gave me goosebumps on this one. They cleaned up with a raucous ‘Half A Boy And Half A Man,’ a wise take on ‘Cruel To Be Kind,’ a slowed down version of ‘Heart Of The City,’ and a boisterous ‘I Knew The Bride (When She Used to Rock And Roll).’
For the encore Los Straitjackets appeared in their Riddler suits, festooned with question marks. They did a ‘Wipeout’ style instrumental where drummer Chris made an underwater sound with a big glass of water, getting water all over himself. It was hilarious. Nick came back on declaring, “Now, that’s entertainment!” They ended with a slow ‘What’s So Funny About (Peace Love And Understanding’) (made famous by Elvis Costello but written by Nick) and a touching cover of ‘When I Write The Book,’ which became a big crowd sing-along.
I’ve seen Nick many times, but this may have been the best yet. The fun and freedom between him and the Straitjackets is infectious. As he enters his Lion-In -Winter phase, the songwriting is incomparable. Nick is an international treasure, and if there is a real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he needs to be in it. Please check out his new Love Starvation EP when available. If you like rock and good songwriting, you won’t be disappointed.