Those lucky sods going to see Low tonight in Christ Church Cathedral are in for a hell of a treat. With about ten viewings under my belt, they are one of my favourite live acts of all time. Here’s a review I did way back in 2012 of their set in the Button Factory to get you in the mood. Merry Christmas, everybody.
Button Factory, Dublin / July 10, 2012
IT NEVER sounded quite right; “Explosions In The Sky. With special guests Low.” The touring agreement may have suited both bands financially but the suspicion was that it would have curtailed a supporting act that had a good name when it came to showstoppers. With a family illness forcing Explosions In The Sky to drop out, the Minnesota three-piece stayed the course to visit long-time friends in Dublin. While our sympathies are with the original headliners, by the end of this exquisite performance the point has been proven – Low are just too commanding an outfit to play second fiddle. The Gig Gods had conspired wisely.
“Are they awestruck or just polite”, you ask of the quiet heads filling every inch of the venue. “Ssshhh,” someone quips allowed and everyone laughs. Awestruck it is, then, and why wouldn’t they be? Now reigning over a hallowed country that sits on the map somewhere between the prairie harmonies of Fleet Foxes or Bonnie Prince Billy and noise royalty like Dinosaur Jnr and Sonic Youth, Low turn every venue into a cathedral.
‘Pissing’ crashes glacially into view, a tense, deep-water stalk that erupts into a sky-shredding, glistening guitar voyage from the visionary Alan Sparhawk. ‘Nothing But Heart’ soars on similar thermals, his voice interlocking ever-seamlessly with percussionist wife Mimi Parker and floating off into the beyond. Other newer fare like ‘Especially Me’ and ‘Witches’ warp their choral beauty with lyrics about Al Green, baseball bats and moot elixirs. Even an old B-side such as ‘From Your Place On Sunset’ seems imperious on this night, like the most important thing you’ve heard all day.
The spirits are forcing Sparhawk’s brow to furrow and his body to writhe and spasm. Parker and bassist/keyboardist Steve Garrington lilt and sway along with the audience. No one takes their eyes off Sparhawk. When the time comes for an encore, a multitude of song requests are flung stagewards. ‘When I Go Deaf’ shimmers into life, the congregation quickens for the umpteenth time and the Gig Gods smile down at all they have created.