Although many of Low’s songs are among the most beautiful you’ll ever hear, their dark musical overtones and unsettling lyrics mean they can also be disturbing. While many other acts try a similar approach, Low’s idiosyncratic work often has that ineffable feel and moving quality which set great music apart from the rest. And if husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, the band’s core members, have a relationship anywhere near as harmonious as their vocals, they probably have the perfect marriage.
The range of tonight’s audience, from indie kids to middle-aged folksters, is testament to the band’s quality. The early part of the set is devoted to new album C’mon: its opener Try to Sleep could be either a simple lullaby or a paranoid meditation on a dystopian surveillance society; the controlled cacophony of Oh Majesty/ Magic is a masterclass in the art of noise making; the musically smooth Nightingale is lyrically heartbreaking (and dedicated by Sparhawk to DJ Marc Riley, clearly a genuine fan, who hot foots it from work to catch the last part of the show); the power riffs and compelling, harmonic mantra of Nothing but Heart reach for stadium rock nirvana; and $20 is the lilting centrepiece of the show, if not the tour (it’s refrain,“my love is for free”Â both hypnotizes the crowd and adorns the t-shirts for sale at the back of the room).
The latter half of the show alights at various points in the band’s back catalogue, including the sweet, sweet Sunflower, the ominous Murderer, the simply beautiful Laser Beam, the majestic, soaring Two Step, and the violent scuzz of Violent Past (if something’s too pretty, Sparhawk tends to want to mess it up).
Before tonight, I had been confident that 1999’s Secret Name (most of which is, of course, not played tonight) is the band’s best album by some distance: the dark trip hop of I Remember; the steep uplift of Starfire; the grace and majesty of Two Step; the religious mystery of Weight of Water; the dissonant frustration of Don’t Understand; the sweet relief of Soon”Â¦.surely unbeatable. However, seeing them select career highlights here has unexpectedly forced me to reconsider. Is 2001’s Things we Lost in the Fire a better album? Or 2007’s Drums and Guns? Could the new, not yet fully digested offering C’mon be a contender? Perhaps for the first time, this criminally underrated band with their pretty, sinister songs has made me re-evaluate my opinion of them, revisit my relationship with them, and made be realize more than ever that they are a band to be treasured.