Nick Lowe, Los Straitjackets offer a magical night at the Magic Bag – The Oakland Press

Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets could play for thousands this month as special opening guests for longtime friend Elvis Costello.

But those shows are unlikely to come close to what the troupe did in front of a few hundred fans on Saturday night, August 6, at Ferndale’s Magic Bag.

Lowe and Los Straitjackets are a couple created in a sort of musical paradise – in this case, their shared management office. Together since 2015, the sight of Lowe performing with the Lucha Libre masked quartet is worth the price of admission alone. But Los Straitjackets’ musical acumen and droll sense of humor dovetail perfectly with Lowe’s rock-solid pop-song canon, making Saturday’s show nothing short of sublime.

Weighing in 28 tidy songs in an hour and 45 minutes, the sold-out show offered a comprehensive look at Lowe’s 55-year career as well as a fine sample of Los Straitjackets’ trademark musical madness. The quintet kicked off with a pair of Lowe’s best-known tunes (he joked early on that there were only one or two genuine “hits” to be had), “So It Goes” and “Raging Eyes” before digging deep into his catalog for the likes of country “Without Love” and sweet “Without Love”. The band kept varied tempos and rich arrangements, flavored with the guitar textures of Eddie Angel and Greg Townson of Los Straitjackets. They sampled generously (five songs) from both EPs, with the soulful “Blue on Blue” one of the highlights of the evening.

Lowe fans who weren’t yet indoctrinated by Los Straitjackets got their chance when he handed things over to the band for a seven-song mid-run mini-set, during which he offered his fiery surf rocker “Kawanga!” and instrumental covers of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” (from the joint EP “Lay It On Me”) and Celine Dion’s “Titanic” theme “My Heart Will Go On” – the latter spectacularly sung by drummer Chris Sprague . Sprague also used a rubber chicken toy to provide “vocals” during the band’s “Itchy Chicken”, and a clever transition allowed Los Straitjackets to play Lowe’s “Rollers Show” instrumentally until Lowe , sporting a fresh shirt, returns for the final chorus.

There were more digs in the second half of the show (“I went to a party”, “Jet Pack”, “Heart of the City”) as well as these “hits”, including “Cruel to Be Kind” and a pleasantly languorous “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” that was arguably more resonant than the raging rock version popularized by Costello. The troupe continued dancing along to “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll)” and encores of The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” and Rockiple’s “When I Write the Book”.

Lowe also added one last treat to close out the night — a solo rendition of Costello’s “Alison,” which Lowe produced in 1977.

Lowe has certainly played with and in some notable bands over the years – Brinsley Schwarz, Rockpile, Little Village, his own Cowboy Outfit. But Saturday’s show proved, once again, that Los Straitjackets are the best of them all, and a partnership that hopefully won’t end anytime soon.

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