Low’s specialty—in every iteration of their career, every sound they’ve ever established and quickly deserted—is unadulterated atmosphere.
Without relying on spectacle, they’re spectacular in the most literal sense. They don’t “play songs” so much as present endless waves of stimuli—each show hones the idea of performance to an even finer edge. You spend a Low show in complete solitude, while you’re simultaneously surrounded by people attending with a gospel-like affinity for what the band brings to bear.
There’s no better place, then, for Low to bring their latest live performance than First Avenue’s newly acquired Fitzgerald Theater, a space that favors audience focus, where all distractions can melt away—except maybe one poor writer trying (and failing) to surreptitiously take notes on his phone, to the consternation of friends and strangers around him. For 18 songs—a majority from Low’s latest, Double Negative—the Fitzgerald provided the perfect environment for Low’s all-encompassing sound and lights experience.
I’ve always admired Low intellectually and appreciated their intentions without being swept up in the rapture that has inspired their fans over two and a half decades. As I’ve written before, I’ve been around long enough to remember their earliest days, when “their live show often involved moments where the awkward clink of a beer bottle or the flick of a cigarette lighter was so audible that people had to be shushed; so still that all-ages shows were full of kids sitting on the sticky floor of venues where mosh pits had dominated the night before.” But Friday’s Fitzgerald show was a passageway into a space that I imagine their most committed followers found long before me.
Look, this job is pretty easy. You go see a band, you pick the couple songs that were really awesome, you describe the vibe, maybe crack a couple jokes about the crowd, you’re out. But Friday’s set wasn’t about the individual songs, whether new or classic; it wasn’t about people anxiously awaiting to hear their fave. Instead, you got song after song each as good as the one before it.
This was occasionally tempered with the between-song profession of love from the crowd, or with guitarist Alan Sparhawk’s wry moves towards stage banter—stumbling over a cliché along the lines of “a dog don’t shit its backyard” while acknowledging that yeah, that’s pretty much all dogs do. Still, this performance had little in common with the traditional “rock” model. Though it culminated with an encore of their classic “When I Go Deaf,” this wasn’t a show constructed around individual highs.
It was all—unapologetic pun—Low.
Critic’s bias: I’m rockist as shit but I love it when a band can completely take me out of my head, which is why I find Low so impressive.
Random n otebook d ump: Low isn’t just for the indie-intellectualati; they’d be great for dudes coming
off six-day coke benders just looking to feel something.
Dancing and Blood
Always Trying to Work It Out
Nothing but Heart
Dancing and Fire
When I Go Deaf