Last year Low released an album by the name of ‘Double Negative‘ and found themselves becoming receptive of huge (and justified) critical praise. The album popped up in best of 2018 lists all over the place, going on to top several of them!
The fascinating thing about last years album is that it doesn’t sound like anything else ever. There are mixes and sounds that are completely new, however, as was being discussed in the audience before the start of this show, it was a logical progression for a band considering their preceding releases. With this in mind it was always going to be interesting to see how they would perform these songs in a live environment and whether or not such a specific sounding record could translate to the stage.Their set at
The End Of The Road Festival sees Low coming to the end of the current run of tour dates, which
has seen them fairly steadily on the road since the middle of 2018. Within this current run I
have had the pleasure to see four shows in total (including this one) and they have all been in
different places (a shop, a church, a theatre and now a field) and the most important
observation following this gig is that they have absolutely gone from strength to strength
and this was absolutely the pinnacle of all the work that had come before it.
As a band, the stage setup has a sense of simplicity. There are no spotlights as such and all
three members play almost in shade with three vibrant screens behind them playing a mixture of
lighting and images which somehow seems to perfectly follow the heart of the music.
Tonight’s set opens with the first two songs from ‘Double Negative’, ‘Quorum‘ and ‘Dancing And
Blood‘. Anyone who has ever heard ‘Quorum’ will know recreating the pulse of the song live just
wouldn’t sound the same. As such the song gets extenuated with differing guitar sounds and
Steve Garrington’s distinctive driving bass (something that undoubtedly threads throughout
the whole performance). Third song, ‘Always Up‘ has some astonishing vocal harmonies that, for
this reviewer, seemed to create some form of pavlovian goose-bump response. ‘Holy Ghost‘ is
the first moment that you hear more independently how strong Mimi Parker’s voice is,
something that was only cemented by the appearance of ‘Especially Me‘ later in the set. She
has the incredible ability to be able to sing in a way that is fiercely strong yet sensitive and it
just adds to the emotional intensity of the evening.
Guitarist & Vocalist Alan Sparhawk is not a greatly talkative man and the band in fact only break for a few moments to engage directly with the audience. However on one of those moments he
references “their hearts being full”. There is not a person in this field who did not feel the
same by the end of this performance. To a person the crowd was completely absorbed by
what was happening on stage and at the moments where sonically it was almost on a
different planet the crowd were completely with them. As they segued from ‘Do You Know
How To Waltz‘ into ‘Lazy‘ you could feel a collective gasp as the feedback and the singing into
pickups came to an end. This is followed by ‘Poor Sucker‘ which live has most resemblance to
its original albeit with a greater crescendo of noise. The evening finishes with ‘Disarray‘
which absolutely feels like the sum of all the parts that have gone before it and is a
justifiable and perfect ending to this show.
The performance as a whole was special. The audience were not talking through it, there
was no one recording on phones and, considering it was a festival set, there was minimal
transition to other stages. What was evident was that we were all in this together.
The last twelve months have seen Low release an album itself has seen the band grow, both in
terms of style, critical acclaim and in terms of popularity. The accompanying tour has used
that growth and harnessed a band unafraid to take risks, unafraid to challenge themselves
and present one of the finest gigs I have ever been to. If you don’t get a chance to see them
before this tour ends (at this time End Of The Road is the last scheduled UK date) then wait
patiently for whatever comes next. I have no doubt it is going to be both unpredictable and
The night finishes with Alan Sparhawk announcing “it’s been a great honour, a pleasure
and a magical journey to be here and play for you”.
No Alan, the honour and pleasure was definitely all ours.