Although no one ever mistook his gentlemanly English manner for that of a punker, Nick Lowe was a part of rock's New Wave revival and did acquire the nickname "the Basher" somewhere along the way. Which makes the tenderness of his great new album, "The Impossible Bird," such a lovely surprise: The accomplished quipster keeps his laconic cheek largely in check, and the rockabilly swagger is dominated by songs that are exquisite, sober . . . hushed, even. Stark raving maturity wears well on him.
At the Coach House on Sunday, Lowe had the task of integrating some of this more delicate, country-folk material into a set that would inevitably have to climax with bashers such as "Cruel to Be Kind." And fans looking for Lowe to replicate the rockabilly glories of the Rockpile days might have wished for more sustained heads of steam.
But the benefit of mixing in Lowe's new, more directly emotional material is that it brings out the latent emotion buried under the surface wit and razz of the older, more indirect rockers. And the Coach House crowd was captivated enough by such ballads as "Shelley My Love" to quiet down to pin-drop level even right after a sweat-invoker like "I Knew the Bride."
"Impossible Bird" is easily his best album in 17 years, and Sunday's set reinforced the notion that, well after his time might've been thought to have passed, new Lowe highs would appear to be in store.