Low and Sleepingdog @ Queens Social Club
The first I heard of Low was in 2005. It was 2 am (another bout of insomnia was doing me in) and ‘Monkey’ came up on MTV Latino. Made me a fan on the spot, with the voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker being the hook, line and sinker that sold me the band straight away. With the prospect of seeing them live at the cozy Queens Social Club, expectations where relatively high.
Sleeping dog started the proceedings of the night. It’s only two persons but they bring a world of sound, like an army of banshees lose in a china shop. She (Chantal Acda) plays keyboards while he (Adam Wiltzie from the awesome Stars of the Lid) connects his guitar to a bunch of daisy chained guitar pedals (with a POG thrown for good measure).
Not that you’d recognise his sounds like those coming from a guitar, as the effects chain renders any note to sound like a church organ (sustain and POG, possibly?). The sound overcame a few times the place and I for one feared for the structural integrity of the place. Pretty good show, great voice and the solemnity of their songs was a good hors d’oeuvres to the main plate.
Low as a touring band now includes the awesome drummer of Retribution Gospel Choir, a certain Mr. Eric Pollard on keyboards, so now you’ve got the energetic force that is that band with Ms. Mimi Parker reigning them in, with a constant minimal drumming that is just enough to give the music a resonating ambience.
And that’s what the live show by Low is : a resonating ambience. The sound is mostly low key but powerful enough to keep your attention and emotions flowing. ‘Specially me’ was a particular live favourite of mine, but getting to hear ‘$20’, ‘Murderer’, ‘Monkey’ and ‘Silver rider’ was a real treat. The other highlight was being part of a human drum machine with clapping in unison to concert opener ‘Breaker’. No cake on site, sadly.
The set consisted mostly of recent songs, with the biggest chunk being songs from the pretty C’mon and a few from The Great Destroyer, two from Drums n guns and a couple of older songs. I might be biased as I like their three latest albums best, but listening to these songs live is a whole different beast. As much as their music is like a pretty painting, it’s the combination of the voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker that make this band what it is. Their voices were as loud as Sleepingdog‘s guitar.
There was some banter before the encore, comprising mostly about a local joke regarding a session with John Peel. Three fine songs were the encore and both the band and the audience had a broad smile when it was all done for.
It’s funny as the best gig I went to in 2010 was Retribution Gospel Choir‘s show at The Grapes (RIP). It’s a stark contrast to see those three beasts of rock (check this) in such a subdued mood, playing masterfully to Mimi Parker’s angelic voice. Although there is no actual relation with any of the bands to religion, the Queens Social Club became a place of worship for just one night. Amen.
Random fact: Low did a great cover of Toto’s Africa. Click.