The key to being a great lyricists is the ability to tell a captivating story whilst allowing for the music to fill in the cracks and create extra depth. Tonight shows that not only are there great lyricists still left, behind the smoke and glitter of processed pop, but they are thriving on pure emotion.
This is the first time Low Duo have organised their own gig, and their choice in support acts are spot on. James Ewan Tait uses his Wild Beasts-esque vibrato to tell of heartache and drunken mistakes with endearing fragility. His main muse is a particularly hard hitting break-up, which seems peculiar for someone so young. However, he manages to produce spine-tingling lullabies of drunken mistakes and lovelorn pleas with beautiful ease and not an ounce of precociousness. It feels like his entire set is a candid catharsis, as he closes his eyes, strains his neck and bounces on the balls of his feet, letting the stories of half finished portraits and personality switches by the strobe light of a club dancefloor trickle over the enraptured audience. He finishes on ‘Jody’, by way of giving a name to the softy woven tapestry of words, and leaves to join the intimate crowd of friends and press.
Picking up the crowd and shaking them around a bit with a country swagger is second support act, Dan Williamson (or “Dan, monkey-face”, as he requested to be introduced as). He takes us through episodes of his life with a wink and chords which appear to follow the dips and peaks of his own vocal patter. However, there’s also moments of frank confession, such as with ‘A Kiss’, which Dan describes before playing as “a little finger prick-y one”. The trickling blood of his honesty reveals a sombre undertone to the hootenanny he’d previously created, highlighted by the lyrics “I know I was wrong and I wish I was dead.” His voice cracks occasionally, yet he still manages to sneak in a playful melody, alongside a constant strum of tension, pierced with twangs of desperate desire.
However, it’s his closing number, ‘Champion’s League on Wednesday Nights’ which inspires the most emotion. It’s curious title gives way to surprisingly touching childhood memories of visiting his father every other week, coupled with the pains of having to leave him and gratitude for having done so much to make him happy. Dan’s dad is watching the performance, standing at the sidelines, and receives a big thumbs up once the song ends. Although there’s no immediate reaction, other than applause from the crowd, Dan’s dad’s stoicism is broken after his son’s set is finished, as he wanders over to help him pack away his kit, and embraces him.
Finally, Low Duo take their place in the fairy-light laced performance area (there’s no elevated stage, merely a rope-light setting the musicians apart from the audience). Frontman and singer Leigh Greenwood, who’s played the part of compere tonight, asks for “a little bit of hush”, as their minimalistic sound commands complete attention. They begin with the first song from their first EP, ‘15 Years’, with it’s distorted vocal and percussive guitar, courtesy of brother Adam. Leigh’s peculiar stance – balancing on one leg with the other progressively lifting – creates the image of a be-suited flamingo, whereas Adam stays in the background, intensley crouching over his instrument. They follow in a chronological pattern by going for a song from their second EP, and continue to prove themselves as artists of beautifully melancholic landscapes by such simple means. Adam builds up a gentle fury, reflected in Leigh’s Placebo-like vocals.
When it comes to showing off their latest EP, they begin with the gorgeously dark ‘Ambulance’, which goes to highlight my introductory point of great lyricists being able to harmonise between words complimenting music, or vice-versa, sublimely. It’s sumptuously silky, despite being about the failed rescue attempt of the girl who slipped away. Sudden inflections sound like muffled sirens, showcasing the pair’s wondrous ability to create minimalistic depth. ‘Secret Matters of the Heart’ is ‘…Truth and Regret’s token “a little bit different” track, as it solely features bass guitar and vocals. It’s an unusual combination, as fully intended, but Leigh’s dexterous choral loops make it work. The stop-start middle-eight causes him to sing in waves as the bass chords swirl. Contrast to this is the soft howls and elongated chords and coos of final song from they perform form this EP, ‘Waltz With Her’. Singular plucks cavernously echo, their sudden, quickening pace like the speed of young love fading.
The high tempo carries through to the slight growl oh ‘House on the Hill’, which comes across as louder than the rest, with more pent-up frustration. It gives Adam a perfect canvas to illustrates his supreme ability to conjure so much desolation and turn it into a wall of sound. They give The Walkmen’s ‘The Rat’ their alternative folk treatment, although momentarily entering the headbanging spirit. The death of this party is brought about by the haunting ‘It Was You and Me’, rippling with velveteen lustre to the very end. This tiny room, hidden above the bar of The Great Gatsby, has unknowingly just played host to a masterclass in less-is-more
Words: Abigail Evans