In a strange but marvelous coincidence, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock and Joe Jackson all are performing in Southern California this week. While they may not be the angry young men, the hard-drinking young men or the sarcastic young men of their youths, they certainly have an impressive body of work, whether looked at individually or as a collected group. In fact, you can add a fifth, albeit lesser-known but no less acerbic, U.K.-bred musician to the lineup – Lloyd Cole – and it adds up to almost one witty Brit a day.
Elvis Costello brings his “2054 – The Centenary Show” (which he describes as a show where he might play any show he has ever written) to a sold-out Irvine Barclay Center on Oct. 2.
The next night, Costello’s one-time producer Nick Lowe performs at the Troubadour. Once calling himself the “abominable showman,” Lowe has mellowed into elder statesman status while crafting gem-like albums of laidback but intimate songs.
Robyn Hitchcock has two shows at McCabe’s on the 5th and venue promises “no songs will be repeated!” This probably is an easy pledge to make and keep, given Hitchcock’s deep and rich catalog of tunes.
Joe Jackson plays the Orpheum on Oct. 6 in support of his latest album The Duke, which is his tribute to the music of Duke Ellington. Of course, this musical journey should be no surprise to his fans or those who recall his early ‘80s, kiss-punk-goodbye albums like Jumpin’ Jive, Night and Day and Body & Soul.
The week closes with McCabe’s hosting Lloyd Cole, who never made a big commotion after coming on the scene in the mid-80s with his band the Commotions but he too has an impressive suitcase of sharply written tunes.
The big missing name here is Graham Parker, who actually does an October L.A. appearance at the Grammy Museum later in the month. But back to this week.
Looking over this foursome, I have too many memories and musical touchstones to cover. However, it did make think how both Costello and Lowe provided me with albums worth of great, witty tunes but they also gave me pushes into appreciating American roots music. Costello with his Almost Blue album and Lowe first with his pub rock outfit Brinsley Schwarz and later with Rockpile and his solo work.
Robyn Hitchcock’s psychedelic-dappled folk-rock tunes have long delighted me, and his shows at McCabe’s, where he magically wove bizarrely comical stories around his songs stand as among the most memorable ones I have experienced. However, I think that his eccentric persona has often overshadowed his talents of as a songwriter.
Joe Jackson might have a smaller impact on me but I have strong memories of his first album, Look Sharp. One reason I remember buying it back in 1979 was because I found it in a cool two 10-inch album packaging that came with a button too! I believe it was between it and Pat Benetar’s debut. Look Sharp was in high rotation over the next few years. It was one of first albums that nearly every cut was a strong one, although it did get his tagged as another Elvis Costello, which he has battled ever since.
I wasn’t as big of a Cole fan – although my brother Dan could present a strong case of his various musical virtues – however, his song “Perfect Skin” is one of those rare perfect songs that had “perfect” in the title.
If only I could take the whole week off and go from show to show. A toast to those who do.