Gareth S. BrownEdit this event
- Spitz, Poplar »
To be utterly honest, I only mention the supporting Gareth S. Brown because I thought of three really good puns on obvious minimalist influence Steve Reich. In my head, while Brown was playing his one-man tiny electro-acoustic symphonies ripe with intricate counterpoint and delicately balanced cross-rhythms playing three and four beats in a bar off against each other like the wonkiest duel ever, all I could do was think of this: Reich On. Reich 'n' Roll. And my favourite: Reich Me Amadeus. If only Michael Nyman had a more punnable name.
One might expect Low, in such cramped conditions as London's tiny Spitz venue, to opt for the most intimate of sets. Nothing too crushing, nothing too happy-sapping, maybe laying off the whole murder ballad scene. Just for one night.
But when we hear 'Sandinista' from their forthcoming Drums and Guns record, it's clear that tonight is actually going to be one of those extremely disturbing affairs with all the scary intensity and frightening stab-attacks you'd associate with Low. Other new material sounds similarly dark, uncomfortably nestling within this family unit of a band. Particularly destined for classic status is 'Belarus', with its chonking chords and extreme falsetto harmonies swelling and dissipating like deep breaths. It is nice to hear them being scary again after the comparative cheer of 2005's The Great Destroyer. We can assume that the majority of the first half of tonight's 90-minute set is new material, due to the collective grins of recognition when Alan Sparhawk begins that ludicrous opening couplet of "So I took my guitar and I threw down some chords" from 'Death of a Salesman'.
It is followed by the inevitable 'Sunflower', welcomed like grandma at Christmas, which is an undeniable triumph, even when a guitar lead pings out of its housing during the instrumental section. Why let technology ruin one of the prettiest songs of the last decade? And why, indeed, let that be the end of the prettiness? When 'Sunflower' is followed by 'In The Drugs' it is clear that the show has shifted from "please bear with us while we try some new songs out" to "thanks for sticking around, here are your favourite Low songs". With that shift, the darkness lifts and everything is much more conversational.
There is banter this evening. Far from shattering the illusions or the mystique of live performance, this helps to bond the listener to the artist. And in a space as small as the Spitz it's almost mandatory. Opening discussions to the floor, Sparhawk fields questions on Mormonism, the role of women and, in a quite hilarious mishearing, the Swedish origin of Ace of Base. This, surprisingly, doesn’t trivialise the seriousness of the songs in the slightest. The crowd are rowdy for these interactive between-song sessions, but utterly respectful when the band has to get stark and deliver their emotional knife-edge songs.
The encore is notable for the sheer amount of requests thrown at the band. It is an eternal testament to the longevity of Low that each voice in the crowd screams for a different song to be played. "'Just Like Christmas'!", "When I Go Deaf'!", "'Whore'!" they shriek interminably. They settle happily for 'Lazer Beam', and the sweet soprano of Mimi Parker envelops us all in a way tender as a lullaby sung from mother to daughter. That's as pleasant an end to an evening as one could ever wish for.
Photograph by Daniel Ross
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