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Ry smile

Guitar maestro Cooder puts on a slide show in first ever Liverpool gig

Published on July 14th 2009.


The ticket announced RY COODER (in big letters) with Nick Lowe and Joachim Cooder, but the other two guys in this trio were far from just a backing duo.

Joachim, the guitar maestro’s son, had already drummed (busily) for opening act and wife Juliette Commagere and her five-piece band. And what can you say about the English songwriting institution that is Nick Lowe?

Ry Cooder is perhaps an odd hero, a shapeless person dressed in an Oxfam knitted hat, an old Hawaiian shirt and baggy trousers. But as a guitar player he has no equals

It was a rare treat to see Cooder in the flesh, so to speak. The master of the slide guitar has been so in-demand for his film scores and projects like the Buena Vista Social Club that he has hardly done any live work in his own right for years.

Anticipation was riding high at the Phil, and this stripped-down unit did not disappoint. With immediate authority they gave new life to Lowe’s opener “A Fool Who Knows”, with Cooder playing those trademark slide guitar licks that we’ve come to know and love.

The old Ry favourite “Fool For A Cigarette” followed, delivered by the guitar man in a deep drawl. He was obviously having a ball, playing around with his vocal delivery and again adding gorgeous guitar.

“Vigilante Man” was given a menacing reading, with Ry reeling off some vicious slide notes and clever, eerie harmonics.

Lowe sang “Losing Boy” next, and that’s roughly how the show progressed, the two frontmen alternating songs and lead singing.

With a quick twist of one tuning head, Ry gave a Hawaiian flavour to Nick’s “One Of These Days You’re Gonna Pay”, and he quoted cheekily from “Apache” and “Riders In The Sky” on a Latin-flavoured but garage-style song sung by Juliette and her keyboard player Alex, who now made it a quintet.

The girls were a harmony in brown and looked like extras from a sepia war film about the French resistance.

It’s hard not to like Nick Lowe, but it’s even easier to be envious of him. A great songwriter, he also produced the first records by Elvis Costello and the Damned and scores of others, and married into the Johnny Cash/Carter Family dynasty. His songs have a country or country-rock flavour while

somehow remaining quintessentially English.

On paper, the marriage of Lowe’s songs with Cooder’s take on Americana shouldn’t really work. But on stage it all comes together naturally and effortlessly, thanks to the quality of the material and the guitar orchestra that is Ry Cooder.

“Crying In My Sleep” had the tears welling and dripping from Ry’s guitar, and “Half A Boy And Half A Man” (“it was a No 1 hit for three weeks in Belgium”) and his most well-known song, “What’s So Funny About Peace Love And Understanding” were also given delightful workouts.

Cooder’s song for Richard Nixon, “Your Biggest Fool,” was a slice of 50s pop that managed to sound like “Spanish Harlem” and the Everlys “Walk Right Back” at the same time.

But it was his re-working of some of his familiar back catalogue that really caught the imagination. “Every Woman I Know is Crazy ‘Bout An Automobile”, “Down In Hollywood”, “The Very Thing That Makes You Rich”, “Jesus On The Mainline” and “He’ll Have To Go” were all real triumphs, with “13 Question Method”, “Little Sister” and “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live” all delivered in an ecstatic encore segment.

Even so, with ticket prices at £55 and £65, I did manage a Ry smile when he sang the opeing line of “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live.” It goes something like: “I remember a time when everything was cheap. Now prices really puts a man to sleep.”

You are forgiven, Mr Cooder. Come back soon.

“Raving Green Pencil”

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GrahamJuly 14th 2009.

I saw Ry Cooder & Nick Lowe in Dublin a few weeks ago, and he was every bit as good as the review of this gig suggests. Both are artistes whose names most people know, but would struggle to name more than a couple of songs by, but when you hear them, they all sound instantly familiar.Really great feel-good gig, and the rapport that both established with the audience only made it better.

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