Nick Lowe Concert Serves as Fitting Tribute to the Late Ian McLagan

Concert Review

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Originally, singer-songwriter Nick Lowe was going to tour with former Small Faces/Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan as his opening act. The two even had T-shirts for sale that featured both of their faces. But McLagan died suddenly last week after suffering a stroke.

It’s a terrible tragedy — McLagan regularly included Cleveland on his tour schedule and was the kind of generous performer who would hang out after performances to mingle with fans and provide autographs. Lowe, touring with Los Straitjackets as his backing band, addressed McLagan’s death last night during his performance. He said that many things crossed his mind when he heard of McLagan’s passing but that cancelling the tour wasn’t one of them.

“He was the original show-must-go-on musician,” he said. “He was what we called a groover.” His remarks made for a touching tribute to the man and those initial sentiments seemed to inflect last night’s nearly two-hour performance, a terrific show at the Beachland Ballroom that featured a mix of Lowe hits and material from last year’s holiday-themed album Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family.

The show started with a short acoustic segment that featured Lowe on acoustic guitar. With his big black-rimmed glasses and disheveled gray hair, Lowe looked a bit like Woody Allen. He easily silenced the near-capacity crowd with songs such as “Dollar Short of Happy,” a tune he wrote with fellow singer-songwriter Ry Cooder.

After that brief solo set, the masked men in Los Straitjackets matriculated to the stage to join Lowe. While the group’s surf rock often borders on obnoxious, the guys kept things in check as they backed Lowe on tunes such as “Ragin’ Eyes,” a song they turned into a righteous rockabilly rant that rocked hard and the very somber “Christmas at the Airport,” an original tune from Quality Street. Lowe gave the stage over to Los Straitjackets but then returned to play another solid set of tunes that included hits such as “Cruel to Be Kind,” “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ’n’ Roll)” and “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” He concluded the show with a very somber rendition of the beautiful ballad “I Was Born in Bethlehem.”

Local singer-guitarist Kevin Junior and his band Chamber Strings opened the show and included a touching tribute to McLagan as Junior acknowledged the incredible influence that the Small Faces and Faces have had on his own music. He included a cover of a Faces’ tune in his set.

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