This blog finally gets up to date with a report on Low’s recent two-set gig at the Epstein Theatre, their first gig in the city since a glorious but freezing night at the Anglican Cathedral back in November 2013.
I got to the venue just in time, forsaking the bar to head straight in to find my seat. Unlike when I was last here (to see Julian Cope in February 2015, as reviewed here), the seats were all allocated, and I was pleased to see I had been my usual efficient self, getting an aisle seat to ensure rapid access to the bar in the interval.
Curiously, the pre-band music was a mix of some very enjoyable dub reggae, including Bunny Wailer alongside other tracks I couldn’t place. This theme was also continued at the interval.
Low were here in support of last year’s eleventh studio album, Ones And Sixes, one of my very favourite records from 2015. In fact, I’d say they’re on a bit of a roll as their last three releases have all been of exceptionally high quality, with 2011’s C’Mon perhaps the one I love most, though I only actually have seven of those eleven (plus the Christmas ep from 1999).
They played 22 songs in total across their two sets, including nine of the twelve cuts on Ones And Sixes, but they also raided their deep back catalogue, with even the few songs I didn’t already know feeling familiar.
The band’s longevity (first album I Could Live In Hope was released back in 1994) was reflected in the fact that the crowd included plenty of men of a certain girth (obviously this does not include the two wizards I bumped into at half time…).
They made an unassuming entrance while the reggae was still playing, with someone around me less familiar with their looks saying they “thought they were the roadies”!
Gentle, the opening song from Ones And Sixes, kicked things off with the three of them playing to the extra backing of some sampled drums on an iPod. They are ever-presents Alan Sparhawk on guitar and rocksteady but very subtle drummer Mimi Parker who shared the vocals, alongside Steve Garrington on bass who has been with the band since 2008.
No Comprende featured some great cross-cutting vocals before the start of Plastic Cup (from The Invisible Way) led to a giant “yes” shout from someone in the crowd, somewhat disturbing the reverent ambience.
They’re a difficult band to describe musically, though I think I can hear elements of early R.E.M. in there, while the debut album’s Lullaby built slowly from something very Young Marble Giants-sounding to a slowed down Sonic Youth instrumental break before a gentle fade.
The band’s complete absence of any between-song chat prompted a shout from the crowd of “hi guys, say hello”, which led to the witty riposte from Sparhawk of “don’t push us around, man”. However, this loosened his tongue enough to tell us that he found Liverpool to be a really “intense town”, where you “have to be 22 per cent more gnarly” as the punks are more punk and goths more goth!
Witches from C’Mon sounded like a decelerated Dinosaur Jr. and was followed by DJ from the newest album featuring a great combination of Parker wailing and Sparhawk’s moaning.
The first half ended with another track off Ones And Sixes, Lies, and I hot-footed it to the bar, getting served so quickly I wasn’t prepared enough as I needed to scan the bottles on the shelves to decide what to drink, due to the lack of anything that appealing on tap, settling for a Black Sheep.
I then proceeded to bump into two of the three Trust The Wizards crew for a chat, Chorizo Garbanzo and Kicker Of Elves, the same two thirds I had met up with at the Shonen Knife gig at the Arts Club a few months ago (as reviewed here). I’m beginning to wonder if Rebel Rikkit actually exists!
After some more dub reggae, Low returned with a track off 2005’s The Great Destroyer, one of their albums that I don’t have, with the second half of the show focusing less on the latest album, instead cherry-picking from across their career. However, one of the highlights was What Part Of Me from last year’s record.
The droning Pissing from The Great Destroyer reminded me of the band Swans and was then followed by another track that made use of drums via the iPod, a cover of Al Green’s sublime Let’s Stay Together, sung by Mimi Parker.
The show then closed with the rocky Landslide from Ones And Sixes, with the band returning for just a single-song encore, Will The Night from 1999’s Secret Name complete with some glorious harmonies.
Low had again put on a simple but magical and beautiful show in town, and I look forward to their next visit, no doubt in several years’ time!
I decided to wear my green Sub Pop t-shirt, who have been Low’s record label for the last five albums. After a few gigs in a row with little evidence of band t-shirts, there was a positive overload here, with the bands on show perhaps indicating the approaching middle age of most of the audience – Tom Waits, Slowdive, The Icicle Works, Grandaddy, Dinosaur Jr., Sigur Rós, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Smiths and Teenage Fanclub.
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Here is most of the music from the night on Spotify: