Low - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 19 Nov 2013
Captivating performance in perfect venue from band at the top of their game
Those keeping up with Low since 2005’s The Great Destroyer will know that their days as the easy-to-characterise ‘quiet band’ are long gone. Their artistic reawakening since then has produced four albums that get pretty loud in places and effortlessly make many end-of-year lists with a typical lack of fanfare. Songs appearing in TV drama Skins suggest a new mainstream reach to match.
On record, Low’s vocabulary might centre on Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s male/female vocal harmonising, but live, with sparse instrumentation and everything on show, it’s Sparhawk’s guitar that dominates the sound of the three-piece. He coaxes tones from it that range from fluid, delicate beauty to a shredded-speaker dirge that envelopes you like a blanket of warm noise. The only other exponent of this type of playing is Weld-era Neil Young. Except Sparhawk improves in it. Yes, it’s that good.
Live, as on record, ‘On My Own’ descends from borderline-jaunty to a squall of droning heaviosity. Similarly intense takes on ‘Murderer’, ‘Pissing’ and ‘Monkey’ contrast with the simple prettiness of ‘Nightingale’, all met with captivated silence and loud hollering from an appreciative crowd, including the Glasgow contingent across at this only Scottish date. You can understand why the band chose to play this particular venue. Never has the Queen’s Hall felt more like the church it once was.