In a wondrously odd mutual-admiration mash-up, Nick Lowe brings his Quality Holiday Revue to The Egg on Friday with Los Straitjackets as his band.
Yes, the urbane, dangerously witty, white-haired Brit rocks holiday tunes with a Nashville crew playing garish guitars in black undertaker suits and wild, painted-leather Mexican wrestling masks, led by former Local 518 guitarist Eddie Angel.
Angel said the mashup works really well. Phoning on Monday from the road between New York (they played Sunday at the Bowery Ballroom) and Boston (they played Wednesday at the Paradise), Angel said, “Nick is a really nice guy, a super cool guy, and he has tons of great stories. The shows are going over really very well.”
Angel said the band played back-up for Lowe for two songs at an anniversary show for their mutual record label, Yep Roc Records in North Carolina.
Lowe said in a news release, “I got a tantalizing taste when I played with [Los Straitjackets] at the Yep Roc 15 celebration, and now I’m returning for a full meal.”
When Yep Roc suggested that Lowe record a holiday album, “My immediate reaction was one of appalled horror,” he told The New York Times. “Don’t they realize I’m a serious artist?” He quickly recognized, “This could actually be a really good laugh.”
The result is “Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family,” which the Washington Post hailed as “unimpeachably tasteful” and New York magazine called “characteristically great.”
“Tasteful” isn’t what comes to mind on hearing Lowe’s droll, downbeat “Christmas in the Airport.” Or “I Was Born in Bethlehem,” which describes a meeting of strangers — one of them Jesus — telling their life stories.
By comparison, Los Straitjackets played it straight (strait?) on “Tis the Season for the Straitjackets” (2002) and “Yuletide Beat” (2009).
Angel said “Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue” won’t be all holiday songs. “We also do [Lowe’s] older stuff: ‘Cruel to be Kind,’ ‘I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll,’ ‘(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding’ and some of Nick’s newer stuff, stuff from the last 20 years.”
In later years Lowe — one of rock’s great team players with Brinsley Schwarz, Rockpile, Cowboy Outfit, which all played here; and Little Village, which didn’t — became a solo troubadour of consummate skill, playing a Top Ten solo show at The Egg in 2012.
(Years earlier, Lowe opened for Elvis Costello at the Palace: Costello joined Lowe to wrap Lowe’s set, then suggested that fans leave, skipping Costello’s set to see NRBQ at RPI instead, but I digress.)
As much fun as Lowe and Los Straitjackets have playing together, they miss the late Ian McLagan, who was to open on the tour.
McLagan, of the Small Faces, the Faces, numerous guest gigs and his own Bump Band, was to join Lowe and Los Straitjackets in Minneapolis for two days of rehearsal, then the first show of the tour.
“Ian never showed,” Angel lamented. “He never got on the plane, so we sent someone to check on him and they found him unconscious with a massive stroke.”
McLagan died last Wednesday.
“I never met him,” said Angel. “I heard he was a great guy, who loved to tell stories.”
Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue plays The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Friday at 8 p.m. $35. 473-1845 www.theegg.org
Angel also headlines the “Rock N Roll Christmas Party” tonight at the Ale House (680 River St., Troy) — a major blast also featuring his longtime rockabilly compadre Johnny Rabb plus Pete Curry, Sugar Balls, John and Graham Tichy, Kevin Maul, Mark Gamsjager, Ian Carlton and surprise guests, some of whom probably played with Angel in his many bands here.
“When I was 12 or 13, I had a band called the Kreases,” Angel recalled. After that came the Motorvators, Swamp Wrode, the Star Spangled Washboard Band, Tino and the Revlons, the Rockin’ Dakotas, Jeannie and the Hurricanes, Grand Street, Tino and the Revlons.
Players might show up from all those crews, to honor a homegrown talent who has arguably traveled farther and played more than any other Local 518 musical veteran. 8 p.m. $10. 279-9740 www.alehouse.troy.com
The Figgs also play a homecoming double. In both gigs, former Figg Guy Lyons rejoins them to play their entire 20-year-old “Lo-Fi at Society High” album, and he leads his own trio, Blockhouses, to open.
On Friday, the Figgs and Blockhouses play the Low Beat (335 Central Ave., Albany) 8 p.m. $10. 432-6572 www.thelowbeat.com. On Saturday, both bands play the Putnam Den (63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs). 9 p.m. show, doors 8. $10. 584-8066 putnamden.com
Ex-Rockapella singer Sean Altman performs “Jewmongous,” his “unkosher comedy songfest” on Sunday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). He invites: “Celebrate the birth of the most famous Jew!” 7 p.m. $18, advance, $20 door. 583-0022 www.caffelena.org
It’s still Hanukkah, and here comes Matisyahu, a nice Jewish boy from Pennsylvania and Westchester who sings reggae and hip-hop and recorded a live album in a Texas barbecue joint.
Matisyahu headlines tonight at Upstate Concert Hall (1208 Route 146, Clifton Park) with the superb young singer Judith Hill opening. Hill has sung with Michael Jackson, Elton John and Stevie Wonder; competed on “The Voice;” appeared in the Grammy-nominated “20 Feet from Stardom;” opened for Josh Groban and John Legend and will release her first album early next year. 8 p.m., doors at 7. $22. 371-0012 www.upstateconcerthall.com
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]
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