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Low – Glasgow, Classic Grand

Vespertine checks out a band who could be safely called the Ryan Giggs of alt. For their longevity, of course. Not for that other thing.

Reviewing a Low gig is not always something one can approach without caution. They sound like….well, themselves. And they sound like themselves a lot. Now some people who are unfamiliar with them might consider this to be samey and, in all honesty, they have a point. But to the initiated the sound they make is one of beauty. And this beauty doesn’t need gimmicks, remixes, or a ‘new direction’. Did Rembrandt move away from self portraits?

It needs to be stressed that the band have worked to tweak their sound over the years and the stark reaction to grunge that was their first few albums is now something they rarely deploy. ‘Secret Name’ really began the process and this year’s wonderful ‘C’mon’ has strings, a nod to Neil Young, beautiful little pop nuggets as well as more stripped back and emotional fare.

The gig is same as most Low gigs – almost all of the new album is played with judicious use of older songs. The new album sounded great live with the highlights being ‘Majesty / Majestic’ and ‘Nothing But Heart’ which had the capacity crowd holding its breath. It is probably Low’s most varied and accessible album in years after the noisy and angry ‘Great Destroyer’ was followed by the bleak ‘Drums and Guns’ – two very different albums which perhaps lacked enough light and shade to show the band in its best light.

The older tracks ranged from the fuzz pop of ‘Canada’ to the beautiful ‘Sunflower’ and for the diehard sad sack was ‘Shame’ from their second album ‘Long Division’. The set ended with ‘When I Go Deaf’ and its lovely invocation of love, music and passion being undimmed by age and infirmity.

The gig was quiet, perhaps due to venue  sound limits. The sound which did emerge, however, was crystal clear. Alan Sparkhawk’s guitar drives the band and despite the slow tempos he creates a huge range of sounds. Steve Garrington and Mimi Parker provide the pulse; their rhythms nagging away underneath every song. The vocal interplay between Sparhawk and wife Parker isa huge feature of the band and remains something that sets them apart from many lo-fi independent bands.

Early Low gigs were hushed affairs: crowd and band locked into a communal event where a pin could be heard dropping. Recent years have seen a rise in the band’s profile but happily the young-ish crowd did leave space for the songs and Glasgow’s usual gig chatter was mostly missing; which is vital for a band such as Low whose songs cannot compete with fascinating tales of local bands, the day at work and what you’ve downloaded recently.

I would recommend starting with ‘C’mon’ and then perhaps trying ‘Secret Name’. You will end up downloading the entire back catalogue within days.


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