MASTER songsmith plus masked musicians - what's there not to love?

It's not often that you get to see a gig which is pure fun from start to finish; one where those on stage appear to be enjoying themselves just as much as the audience but this one one of them.

Nick Lowe, who surely should be filed under national treasure, brought his vast catalogue of classic songs to the party.

The extra dimension was provided by Los Straitjackets, his American backing band. In black suits, Mexican-style wrestling masks and matching guitars it was a surreal experience to see them standing either side of the great man.

But any fears that they might prove a distraction disappeared the moment that launched into the opening number So It Goes. They may have an unique approach to stagecraft but they are also peerless musicians providing the perfect, vintage rock and roll backing.

Lowe himself clearly enjoys their company, the smile on his face lit up the RNCM.

When you have written as many songs as he has in his career, you're never going to please everyone when it comes to putting a setlist together for a live show. But you'd have to be pretty churlish to complain about the wide range that got an airing in Manchester.

Cruel to Be Kind, I Knew the Bride, I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass all featured alongside lesser known originals and more recent songs written with Los Straitjackets.

The masked musicians were given a generous amount of the spotlight performing their high-energy, surf guitar instrumentals including inspired versions of The Hollies' Bus Stop and Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On.

As you would expect from a perfect pop song, few on the setlist lasted more than three minutes or so and the evening rattled along at a tremendous pace.

A three-strong encore culminating in (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding rounded off a night which left everyone, including those on stage, with huge grins on their faces.