Friday, February 5, 2016

Low at The Earl, Atlanta; February 4, 2016

The evening was billed as "An Evening With Low," meaning they were the only band on the bill, meaning Low played two separate sets, each 50 to 55 minutes long, with an about 15-minute break in between, and I think it would have been fine with the audience if they played a third set, although at the same time they didn't leave us feeling unfulfilled.

Low, just in case you don't know, are from Duluth, Minnesota, and consist of founding members Alan Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and his wife, Mimi Parker (drums and vocals), along with Steve Garrington (bass and keyboards). Their slowcore music is characterized by minimalist arrangements and striking vocal harmonies. 

In some respects, the band Low has similarities to indie-rock band Yo La Tengo. Both bands consist of a singer/guitarist frontman accompanied by his singer/drummer wife and an unrelated bassist. Both bands are long-running combos that have been around for a while now, Low since 1993 and YLT since 1984.  Both bands are sonically diverse, although Low have a bit more of a signature sound and YLT are decidedly the more eclectic of the two.  Still, last night, Low played some slow ballads and delicate folk-rock songs, engaged in some feedback freakouts and rattled and hummed some fuzzed-out amps, and even covered an Al Green song. 

The Al Green song was especially startling, with Mimi Parker handling the vocals to Let's Stay Together, and at Low's crawling speed and with their somber arrangement, they made the song sound less like a love song and more like a Fatal Obsession or a criminal's life sentence ("Loving you whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, and if you mess with me, you can't set me free").

Earl audiences can be noisy, especially back by the bar, but it's a testament to the band's drawing power and hypnotic attraction that they had the room completely silent, regardless of whether the songs were quiet or loud. 

Over the nearly two hours of their performance, they played just about every Low song that one could have wanted to hear (except Just Like Christmas, which even I will admit wouldn't have fit in with the rest of the set).  I can't recall the entire set list, which drew heavily from their recent Ones and Sixes album, arguably the best of their career, but No Comprende was the second song in the set, and Let's Stay Together was the second-to-last.  In between, they played all of the songs in these videos as well as many, many more.

We've only seen Low once before, back at Bumbershoot in Seattle in 2012.  That show blew our minds back then and raised our expectations for last night's show, but four years later, Low did not disappoint.

Sparhawk showed some good-natured, self-effacing humor during his infrequent stage banter, and despite the lack of chatter, by the end of the intimate show we felt like we had spent the evening in the company of close friends who just so happen to express themselves exclusively through well-crafted rock songs.

2016 has been off to a good start, with excellent sets so far by Julien Baker, Palehound, and Bully, and Low has kept this year's lofty standard high and even raised the bar a notch or two.

1 comment:

  1. They were so good that night! I must've been standing almost right next to you at one point based on the photos.