Nick Lowe’s Rockpile, Willie Alexander: The Bottom Line, New York NY

THE HEAVY rain outside did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the audience inside. With a majority of those in attendance being press and record biz people, the loyalty might have been a little suspect, but the buzz in the air had quite a bit more to do with Nick Lowe’s brief, but eminently successful, appearance as the support band for Elvis Costello a few nights earlier at the Palladium.

Willie Alexander, the pseudo-punk rocker from Boston, opened with an overly long, overly loud set of what amounted to close quarters heavy metal with a comedic approach.

While the band’s album showed some style and promise, their live, presence is that of just another tedious bar band whose general paltriness was only underlined by their pained version of the Righteous Brothers classic, ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’, during which Willie toyed with a huge wad of chewing gum that stuck itself to his body during one particularly rousing section.

The opening nuisance dispatched, Rockpile excitement began building. By the time Lowe (dressed in the green suit with question marks), Edmunds and company took the small stage, the audience were completely with them. Even the band’s total lack of visual excitement did little to prevent cheers and screams after each number.

Lowe compèred the set, introducing songs and joking while Edmunds, for his part, seemed at least comfortable on stage, with no sign of the apparent terror he displayed at the larger venue – where he’d wandered not just out of the spotlight but nearly into the wings at several junctures.

The songs chosen for the set illustrated the intricate nature of the relationship of the participants. The opener, ‘So It Goes’, was Lowe’s all the way, but the second tune was ‘Down Down Down’, an oldie from Edmunds’ repertoire, which he sang and soloed on.

A bit further along, guitarist Billy Bremner sang a pair of that will appear on Edmunds’ forthcoming album.

From the Nick Lowe song-book came ‘I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass’, done to a Bo Diddley beat; ‘They Call It Rock’, with Edmunds and Bremers trading off red hot guitar solos; ‘I Knew The Bride’ (sung by Edmunds), and ‘Heart Of The City’.

Edmunds delivered an impressive selection featuring his long-ago hit ‘I Hear You Knocking’ and ‘Falling In Love Again’.

Edmunds and Lowe, the Phil and Don Everly of 1978, teamed up vocally for a few, the best of which were ‘Here Comes The Weekend’, and Graham Parker’s ‘Back To Schooldays’. Their voices blend together neatly, sounding ever so American in tone, and the effect goes perfectly with the material they choose.

Despite the stories of on-the-road bickering between Dave and Basher, their musical collaboration on stage can only be called a resounding triumph. Between them, the range of music available is staggering, and one can only hope that Rockpile gets on the road a bit more often in the future.

© Ira RobbinsNew Musical Express, 10 June 1978

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