all words and photos: Matthew Shaver
This is the wrong venue….
I thought it before Low hit the stage, and, over and over again for most of the evening.
Pick a couple from up front. Have them grab a dozen or so people from the crowd, take them back to their cruddy studio apartment with amazing acoustics, pour them some fine wine, open the windows, and let go. That’s how I would have liked to have seen Low for the first time, but Black Cat would have to do, I guess.
Low is a rock band. Their entire catalogue sounds like the last song on the album. Not the balls-to-the-wall finale, but the slow, lumbering ballad that seemingly drifts off only to be replaced by the quiet crackle of the record that lets you know the experience is over.
Low made it work. A devious amount of background noise tried to make its way into the eardrums of the faithful, but was quickly dispelled by the vocal harmonizing of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. One of their most distinctive qualities, the harmonies are great on tape, but absolutely magnificent live. When they are not singing together, they are ooh-ing and ah-ing away in the background to great effect.
Though a large portion of the evening was devoted to their new album, C’mon , the band from Duluth managed to touch on a song or two from all of their important works.
Songs like “Especially Me” and “You See Everything” allowed Parker to flex her emotional range, while slow burns such as “Nothing But Heart” let Sparhawk grit his teeth and build from a whisper to a growl. In the end, though, they brought it all back around to the joint efforts, like “Cue The Strings”, that form the core of their library. Songs that ease their way into the mind once the harmonies take hold.
Sparhawk’s guitar work ranged from quietly strummed to crunchy, fuzzy, doom rock. He was always present but never overpowering, but for a few songs like the humorous finale “When I Go Deaf” which opened with the titular line then exploded into a loud, static solo. I wouldn’t doubt it if Mimi Parker has never touched a regular drum stick in her life. The brushed drums served mostly as a place holder for the rest of the band and rarely work themselves above a distant clap of thunder. Ace bass playing and keyboard work brought the usual 3-piece up to a quartet for this tour and the fuller sound made it worth the extra mouth to feed.
Low mostly kept it a mostly formal affair, with little crowd interaction, but remained open and humorous when they did speak up. Bassist Steve Garrington received some love early on, but other than shouting out song names the crowd kept with the mood of the evening. The greatest moment of levity came when the entire venue seemed to be shouting out requests, when the loudest one of all came from the back: “Play whatever you want, you’re a great band!”
It got closest to the intimate gathering I had hoped for towards the end of the evening. When all of the curious spectators and bar hounds had filtered out, and all that was left were the fans. Huddling as close to the stage as we could, barely filling half of Black Cat, we waited for the crackle of the record player.
- 1)Point of Disgust
- 3)Try To Sleep
- 4)You See Everything
- 6)Silver Rider
- 8)Especially Me
- 13)Nothing But Heart
- 14)Somethings Turning Over
- 16)Cue the Strings
- 18)When I Go Deaf