Last night I went to see Nick Lowe and Josh Rouse at the 20th Century Theatre. Both musicians performed solo acoustic sets; Josh served as the opening act.
I’ve been a fan of Josh Rouse’s music since I first heard “Suburban Sweetheart” on the Sounds of the New West compilation in 1998. I saw him open for the Cowboy Junkies a couple years after that, and then lost track of him as a live performer. I still bought each of his new studio albums, but didn’t manage to catch up with him again for 16 years. What I mostly remember about Josh’s live show back then was how dull it was. If you’re less interesting than the Cowboy Junkies, then there’s definitely something wrong.
Well, I’m happy to report that Josh Rouse has made great strides as a live performer. He’s quite engaging now. He seems comfortable up there, tells stories, and blows a mean harmonica. It also helps that he’s got so many more quality songs to choose from (originally recorded in different styles). Josh mixed it up and played a selection from his entire career. He performed the title track off his debut album, a few songs off the incredibly poppy 1972, an assortment of songs from his Yep Roc years, and even a new tune called “Sad MF”. I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself. Here’s the setlist:
Setlist: It’s the Nighttime / JR Worried Blues / A Lot Like Magic / New Young / 1972 / Time / Sad MF / Dressed Up Like Nebraska / Comeback (Light Therapy) / Crystal Falls / Love Vibration / The Ocean
Josh Rouse closed out his set with a version of “The Ocean” that had the audience singing the “sinking down slow, sinking down slowly” line over and over again as he walked off stage. I’m usually not into audience participation, but it was quite lovely.
Nick Lowe is my second favorite 67-year-old British musician and he hardly ever makes it out to Cincinnati. This was actually my first time seeing him live. It was perfect timing, too. I found a used copy of his 1999 box set, The Doings: The Solo Years, a few months ago and have been playing it in my car non-stop since then. I’ve heard “American Squirm” about 40 times. I can honestly say that I’m more of a Nick Lowe fan in October of 2016 than I’ve ever been before. I consider myself lucky that he scheduled a show a mile from my house right in the middle of my Nick Lowe Phase. That kind of timing rarely happens.
Want to know what I think? Nick Lowe is a brilliant performer and you should check him out if he ever comes anywhere near where you live. Even if you only know the hits like “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” and “Cruel to Be Kind”, it would definitely be worth the money. He’s charming and dapper and has so many good songs beyond the famous ones. I was just as happy to hear songs from 2011’s The Old Magic like “House For Sale” and “Stoplight Roses” as I was to hear the classics. I don’t even own The Old Magic. Never heard those songs before in my life.
Here’s Nick Lowe’s setlist:
Main set: People Change / Stoplight Roses / Long Limbed Girl / Ragin’ Eyes / What’s Shakin’ on the Hill / “Crying Inside” / ‘Til the Real Thing Comes Along / “The Shoes I Used to Wear” / Has She Got a Friend? / I Trained Her to Love Me / I Live on a Battlefield / Failed Christian (Henry McCullough) / Cruel to Be Kind / Sensitive Man / Somebody Cares For Me / House For Sale / Lonely Just Like Me (Arthur Alexander) / (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? / I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll)
Encore: When I Write the Book (Rockpile) / Knock Knock Rattle (Rex Allen) / Alison (Elvis Costello)
Finally, here are a few of my usual concert-related scans and photos. In addition to the setlist notes and marquee shot, I’ve included a picture of my copy of Josh Rouse’s Bedroom Classics, Vol. 4. I picked it up at the merch table on my way out. I didn’t even know it had been released.
One last thing. I should probably mention that this show took place at the exact same time as the third presidential debate. I would’ve watched that train wreck if it hadn’t been for the concert. My life is better for choosing the music. It almost always is.