I love Nick Lowe’s rockin’ version of “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding” with Brinsley Schwarz. Elvis Costello’s, too. But the acoustic rendition Lowe performed at the Lafayette Brewing Company Saturday night seemed more apt.
Hushed and reverent, Lowe’s voice exploded. Stripped down, the song is even more powerful, more gripping. (If you’ve never heard Lowe caressing every potent lyric of his classic composition, pick up a copy of “Untouched Takeaway.” It should be required listening for every politician entering office.)
Lowe’s voice, one of the purest instruments in rock, translated especially well in the intimate setting of a small bar. “House for Sale,” the centerpiece of Lowe’s wonderful new album, “This Old Magic,” might be dubbed “sway music” because nearly everyone in the crowd was rocking gently. And “Stoplight Roses,” which Lowe also performed solo, was one of the prettiest tunes I’ve ever heard in concert.
Lowe rocked the house, though, when the band joined him for tunes such as “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll,” “Cruel to Be Kind” and “Somebody Cares for Me.” The band blended elements of rockabilly and classic rock into a mix that made the whole joint hop.
I’ve waited more than 30 years to hear Lowe live, but I was almost as excited about hearing his keyboardist, Geraint Watkins, play. (You need to buy Watkins’ last album, “In a Bad Mood.”) Watkins didn’t disappoint either. He drove Lowe’s band hard with his keyboards on Saturday night. And during “I Live on a Battlefield,” Watkins keyboards sounded almost like a voice, echoing every line Lowe sang. I just wish Watkins had stepped out front for a duet of “Only a Rose” like the live version he performed with Lowe for “In a Bad Mood.”
I’m not going to complain, though. Friends of Bob, the local music cooperative that sponsored the show, has brought many of the greatest performers in world to Lafayette. Until Lowe’s last song of the evening, I thought it was the second best concert Friends of Bob has ever sponsored, ranking only behind Richard Thompson’s set. Then Lowe launched into a heartbreaking rendition of Elvis Costello’s “Alison.”
I can’t imagine many things better than that.