Bluesfest review: Nick Lowe, Passenger prove the power of a good song

Nick Lowe with los straitjackets performed on opening evening of Bluesfest Thursday (July 5, 2018). Julie Oliver/Postmedia

Julie Oliver / Postmedia

In their Mexican wrestling masks, the members of Los Straitjackets appeared prepared for battle as they entered the ring to match wits with veteran British singer-songwriter Nick Lowe.

But as a substitute of a struggle, the live performance on RBC Bluesfest’s Claridge Homes stage, now situated in a large tent, was extra of a show of mutual admiration, with Lowe singing the Straitjackets’ praises, and the Straitjackets treating Lowe like the chief of their odd-looking cult.

It’s an unlikely sounding collaboration but it surely made for a splendidly entertaining efficiency. Lowe was in cost of a nice backing band, whereas the Straitjackets benefited from all the pieces Lowe added to their polished model of instrumental surf rock, beginning along with his intelligent songs, weathered vocals and gentlemanly manner as a white-haired and bespectacled frontman.

There have been a couple of obscure, presumably new tunes, and a phase spotlighting the band (and their slick group choreography) when Lowe ducked off stage, however for my cash, the combo was at their most potent on Lowe’s timeless hits, lending recent vitality to the likes of Cruel To Be Kind, Half a Boy and Half a Man, What’s So Funny (Bout Peace, Love and Understanding), and I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock ‘n’ Roll).

Further proof of the power of a good song was evident on the Black Sheep Stage, the place one other British singer-songwriter dominated the roost. This one was Passenger, a.okay.a. Mike Rosenberg, the thirtysomething inheritor to Ed Sheeran’s folk-rock crown, and an artist whose profession was launched by one particular song, the oh-so-romantic 2012 hit, Let Her Go.

That’s what drew a crowd of younger individuals so huge it stretched up and over the hill in entrance of the stage, a exceptional turnout for a solo performer armed solely with an acoustic guitar.

Despite all the actions competing for consideration round the website, together with a Ferris wheel, carnival video games and extra, Passenger managed to seize most of the crowd’s consideration along with his resonant voice and lilting tunes. There was chatter, naturally, but it surely wasn’t arduous for him to redirect the voices into singing alongside, significantly when it was time for Let Her Go. On a steamy summer time evening, the impact was rapturous.

Bluesfest’s opening evening was a seize bag of musical riches, with surprises from far-flung corners of the world. One of the greatest performances got here from Jupiter and Okwess, a rocking Afro-reggae band from the Congo that didn’t let the warmth cease them from doing backflips on stage.

Another spotlight was the mesmerizing blues of Mississippi guitarist R.L. Boyce and his guitar- and drum-playing comrade, Malcolm. Their gritty type obtained even grittier when the Texas Horns, the competition’s resident horn part, slid some greasy saxophone into the combine.

As for the website setup this 12 months, my preliminary disappointment at the downsizing of the Claridge Stage – it’s been moved off the principal plaza and into the tent close to the Ferris wheel — shortly turned to acceptance when it rained a few drops, despite the fact that it was a stiflingly sizzling place to observe a present. There simply isn’t a lot motion of air in that plasticized construction. Another quibble is the peak of the stage: It’s too low to be seen from the again of the crowd.

For the most half, the sound there was nice, regardless of a contact of soundbleed from Bryan Adams on the principal stage, sufficient that it prompted a remark from Lowe. “Is that Bryan?” he questioned aloud, cocking an ear as he acknowledged the song. “Oh, I like this one.”

Bluesfest continues till July 15. On Friday, see Jethro Tull, The War on Drugs and Hanson on the principal City stage; St. Paul and the Broken Bones and AJ Croce on the Claridge Homes stage; and Brockhampton and extra on the Black Sheep Stage.

For blues lovers, a jam hosted by Ottawa power trio MonkeyJunk takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Barney Danson Theatre inside the Canadian War Museum, that includes an array of particular company.

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