David Lowery and Johnny Hickman: The Albert, Brighton, 12 Dec 2010

Camper Van Beethoven have long been one of my favourite bands (see my Bands Who Changed Our Lives feature), and Cracker are another staple on my MP3 player so the chance to see singer and songwriter David Lowery in a low key pub setting was pretty special. Accompanied by his Cracker sidekick, guitarist Johnny Hickman, Lowery played an excellent set of favourite songs by both of his bands.

David Lowery and Johnny Hickman

David Lowery and Johnny Hickman

The gig was an afternoon affair, which is unusual but made a refreshing change, and the pub room was a very different environment from the concert hall where I first saw Camper Van Beethoven play. Lowery and Hickman were warm, friendly hosts and funny stories broke up the songs through the afternoon. An accident falling out of the car on route to the gig had left Lowery with an injured hand, and some songs were left out of the set (if bar chords were required). With such a large amount of songs to pick from the back catalogue this didn’t prove to be a problem.

The set was Cracker heavy with songs from their recent albums sounding great in the duo format, and early “hits” ‘Low’ and ‘Teen Angst’ having the warm familiarity of a well loved old friend. Only the lack of (my personal favourite) ‘Big Dipper’ disappointed. The set also featured a song from Lowery’s solo album due for release next year.

The Camper Van Beethoven songs were a real treat and a real favourites selection. ‘Good Guys and Bad Guys’, ‘All Her Favourite Fruit’ and ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’ showed the amazing depth of Lowery’s songwriting through his career. The highlight for me was a beautiful rendition of ‘Sweethearts’ a clever, subtle and timeless tune that may well be Lowery’s crowning achievement.

David Lowery

David Lowery

Johnny Hickman is a fantastic guitarist, possibly the best I’ve had the pleasure to see play live. Even in the subdued afternoon pub setting his solos and tricks worked wonderfully. His skill is such that when he played the Camper Van Beethoven songs it was like he had been playing them since the beginning.

Lowery and Hickman are very different figures and it was pointed out to me how everything about Hickman is clean and neat (voice, clothes, hair, guitar playing) and everything about Lowery is slightly ragged. It is this combination that makes their music so magical and unique. A really fantastic afternoon of music with two unheralded heroes of the business.

9/10

Words by Dorian Rogers, pictures by Nic Newman

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