Friday, November 15, 2013

Nick Lowe's Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For The Whole Family

It's Christmas, at one of those massive family gatherings that requires a rented hall. Grand-parents, great-grandparents, uncles and aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins, and an incomparable host of distantly-removed cousins to boot. The Pater Familias went ahead and hired a band to show up for an hour. They trudge in — seasoned veterans to a person — set up their equipment and tune up.

The band leader knows exactly what he's in for. The Pater Familias is old enough to remember what an electrical jolt it was to see Elvis on Sullivan. There's the usual group of grizzled aunts and uncles who have staked their claim at the bar at the back, where they guzzle VO and Coke between begrudging trips outside into the weather for a smoke. And there are the young parents, anxious for anything just a little hipper than what the purple dinosaur is offering, and bracing themselves because their kids are going to cry when the music gets loud. And, of course, there are the hipster yoots, milling at the edges of the crowd and smirking because they're sure this is going to be bad — in a bad way.

All present and accounted for.

The band leader clears his throat, strums the opening chord, and approaches the mic. Howls: “Children go where I send theeeeee...”

It's old-timey rockabilly and it . . . kinda . . . cooks!

With this opening note, Nick Lowe gets the entire crowd on-side — and keeps 'em on-side for the remaining 45 minutes, covering all the bases from the sentimental, to the sincere, to the inevitably acerbic (because how can you not be?) with just enough base-line rock 'n' roll to keep the hip young things from leaving the room. It's a hell of a show, and it leaves everyone smiling.

And it closes all-too-quickly, because too short is better than too long. The usual music sweeps in and takes over the sound-system. It's the Christmas everyone is familiar with.

But speaking as the Pater Familias who's hired that band, I think I got my money's worth. In fact, I want to throw them a Christmas tip. So this is it: go get that record, sit back and enjoy the show while you're driving home from work. And see if your crowd doesn't find a song or two — or more— that they want incorporated into the family's seasonal playlist.

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