Nick Lowe spreads cheer on new tour

Nick Lowe, right, plays with Los Straitjackets, who will accompany Lowe on his “Quality Holiday Revue” tour.

Image By: Courtesy of True Endeavors

Nick Lowe is versatile. They nicknamed him “The Basher” for his production aesthetic. He all but gave Stiff Records a signature sound. His credits in the studio include Elvis Costello (with and without The Attractions), The Damned, The Pretenders, Graham Parker & The Rumour, Wreckless Eric and John Hiatt. He’s on good terms with Johnny Cash’s family. He was a member of seminal pub rock group Brinsley Schwarz. He’s done pure pop and Sinatra-style swing albums alike. He’s had hits both in his native England and across the pond here. He’s worshipped by Alex Turner and Jeff Tweedy. And now, he’s doing a holiday tour.

This Thursday, Lowe and a host of guest performers will grace The Barrymore Theatre as a part of Lowe’s “Quality Holiday Revue,” which will run from Dec. 3 to 20, across the Midwest and northeastern United States. Madison, luckily enough, will see the second night of the tour—First Avenue in Minneapolis beat us to the punch, though. Presumably, most of the material will be drawn from 2013’s Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family, and Lowe has been quick to deem the show “sleighbell-free.” So, sorry to anyone who madly reps “I Saw Three Ships. 

Indeed, Quality Street deliberately sidestepped traditional arrangements (and even traditional traditionals) in favor of new tunes and obscure gems. When was the last time you heard “Children Go Where I Send Thee?” Traditional, sure—but on the album, in Lowe’s hands, it turns into a smoky rockabilly tune. That kind of spirit (assured and eclectic) drives most of Lowe’s output and no doubt will keep Lowe in fine form throughout the tour.

Of course, Lowe isn’t a stranger to the Christmas music scene. One of his most famous compositions, “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding,” was the standout medley tune in “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!” (sung by Colbert, old compatriot Costello, Toby Keith, John Legend, Willie Nelson and Feist). And if you’re lucky, maybe this song will make an appearance during the set.

As mentioned, Lowe won’t be touring alone. Ian McLagan (former [Small] Faces keyboardist and rock ’n’ roll veteran) will be joining him, as will Los Straitjackets. The latter group is an instrumental surf rock band originating from Nashville, Tennessee. Distinguished by their musical acumen and their impeccable choice in accoutrements (each member of the band wears a lucha libre mask), the band will provide backing for Lowe and McLagan. It’s a smart choice in this context: Los Straitjackets are experienced holiday music players themselves, with two albums (2002’s ’Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets and 2009’s Yuletide Beat) under their belt.

Whether you’re an old dog or a neophyte, Lowe and company are sure to delight with their holiday revue, jam-packed with tuneful, sedulous idiosyncrasy.

Nick Lowe and his “Quality Holiday Revue” will be at The Barrymore Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are running at $25. 

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