Wouldn’t it be good to be able to pick the venues for the bands that you want to see? For Low this would be a room where you could get close enough to the stage and the band members so that you could experience the full emotion and the spirit (or that should that be spirituality?) that comes from the trio, but big enough and airy enough to encompass Alan Sparhawk’s flights of fancy and guitar distortions at the same time.
I have had the pleasure of seeing this band in several venues matching this description from the Union Chapel and the Barbican to cold damp churches. Before tonight I couldn’t really see how their music could be as expansive under the low ceiling and in the cramped conditions of the Glee Club. Firstly I needn’t have worried and secondly the band obviously didn’t worry; they like this place.
Alan welcomed everybody, thanked them for coming out and made a point of mentioning the venue and told anyone that was expecting a “change of scenery” they would be disappointed because this was their kind of place. This says a lot about the way they are, wanting that connection with the audience, turning up and doing their own stage prep and just getting on with it. Their shows are always understated and this belies the power and the impact of their songs.
Over the years they have managed to combine their own kind of indie sensibility with a way of communicating their faith so it isn’t blatant. At times it isn’t really that evident. However the latest album “The Invisible Way” seems to have changed this approach and lyrically at least their intent is a bit more obvious. This has made the songs more straightforward and more acoustic. That’s not to say that the subversive element has disappeared. The tunes such as Plastic Cup and Clarence White that opened up the set are sung by Alan and he seems to have taken the edgier role whilst Mimi Parker sings the steadier songs, those that are more hymn-like.
As usual we are not talking about tub thumping here. There is no preaching although its clear that their songs are all directly from the heart. People who don’t know the background of the band may not even know what is going on.
Certainly the audience didn’t know what was going on when Daniel Blumberg shuffled onto the stage plugged in his guitar and rattled off four tunes from his new Hebronix project. Over recent times he has managed to cast off the pop sensibilities of Cajun Dance Party, jettisoned the more ethereal approach of Oupa and only this month abandoned what looked like a promising career with the best 90′s band ever (©NME) by quitting as front man of Yuck. I’m sure people didn’t know who he was and didn’t seem to get what he was doing, although again if you knew his background the songs made sense, combining all three previous influences.
What he does is good stuff; simple vocals and guitar over pre recorded loops and tracks, but you have to wonder what is coming next. It’s as if he gets to a point where his ideas are fully formed and then he knocks it on the head and goes on to something else. I wonder who he will be this time next year?
This time next year Low will be Low. Alan Sparhawk seems to have his own outlets outside of the band through the Chairkickers Union label and the Retribution Gospel Choir, although the members of the side projects and Low seem to be interchangeable. The connecting link between all of these is the power of the live performance and how they can wind up the atmosphere as the songs go by. Maybe this is why they like the Glee Club. With the audience pressed up against the stage, in a sold out house meaning everyone is on each others laps, there was nowhere for that atmosphere to escape. When they got into the familiar favourites like Monkey, Sunflower and Witches you could feel what they were getting back from the audience. Unlike some Low gigs I’ve been to there was no background hub-hub and even the sound of glass-tic being kicked all over the place as people tried to move around didn’t upset anyone.
An enterprising bloke at the back got his encore request in just at the right moment with Alan jokingly referring to him in the middle of When I Go Deaf. After the usual rigmarole of Alan and Mimi whispering to one another they decided on the Dirty Three song I Hear……Goodnight to end with. Quite appropriate.
As usual with this band it was a great gig and the venue proved to be excellent but a bit more volume and expansive sound wouldn’t have gone amiss.
On My Own
To Our Knees
When I Go Deaf
Last Snowstorm of the Year
I Hear… Goodnight
Photos Stephanie Colledge
Review Ian Gelling