Low + Hebronix at The Glee Club, Birmingham, UK – 24th April 2013

Posted by Bianca on Wednesday Apr 24, 2013 Under Indie, Rock

Photographs and Review by John Bentley

Low @ Glee Club Birmingham 24-4-13

Low are not a band to rest on their laurels. Only one year on from their last appearance in Birmingham, we have yet another great new album and almost a completely new set, mostly taken from the new record. And yet again it’s a sold out gig. “We enjoy playing here”, Alan Sparhawk tells us, and he sounds like he really means it.

Low could clearly sell-out a much bigger venue, but it does seem they like the Glee Club. It’s not surprising really, as it has a great intimate atmosphere and fantastic acoustics. It feels almost like they are playing in your living room. The only downside for the audience is the uncomfortable and cramped plastic chairs set out for tonight’s seated gig.

Low @ Glee Club Birmingham 24-4-13

This time the show has a projected backdrop showing fuzzy and slightly sinister moving images to accompany the performance. However, it starts with a projected digital countdown – at least we know when the band are coming on. Nevertheless, they appear before we reach zero and launch into four tracks from the new album, ‘The Invisible Way’, starting with ‘Plastic Cup’. This is a strange song that imagines that a cup, used to collect urine samples to detect drugs, is discovered by future archaeologists who don’t know what it’s used for. They think that maybe it was held every night by a king.

Low @ Glee Club Birmingham 24-4-13

The new album, has been well reviewed. It’s more acoustic and stripped-down than recent records, but has very strong songs. Considering they have been about for so long, a ‘slowcore’ band like Low, whose trademarks are slow songs, limited instrumentation and two harmony singers should theoretically have run out of ideas and got rather repetitive by now. But none of it. The trick seems to be that the music and the lyrics continue to be excellent and always on ‘the edge’, the band are passionate about their performances and they keep reinventing and refining the sound using different producers. Having previously used other notable producers, including Steve Albini, this time they’ve gone for Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who has helped them produce another great and individual album.

Low @ Glee Club Birmingham 24-4-13

The new songs may be gentler sounding than previous, but they still have the characteristic Low tension, and we are reminded of this halfway through the second number, ‘On My Own’, as Sparhawk utters the first spine-tingling rumbling feedback from his Gibson guitar. Another change is that drummer Mimi Parker, Sparhawk’s wife, now gets to sing the lead more, starting with new song ‘Holy Ghost’. So overall, there’s quite a different sound and feel to last year’s gig at the Glee Club. We wait until the fifth song for an old favourite, ‘Monkey’ –“Tonight you will be mine, tonight the monkey dies” – odd, but great lyrics! This is a very powerful rock rendition by the guitar-bass-drums trio and it goes down very well with the punters.

Low @ Glee Club Birmingham 24-4-13

New song ‘Waiting’ features some delicate piano work from third member Steve Garrington, plus wonderful harmonies from Parker and Sparhawk. We only get a couple of songs from their excellent previous album ‘C’mon’, which featured heavily at last year’s gig. The first of these is the strange ‘Witches’, with heavy echoing guitar and complete with a backdrop of sinister flying birds, reminiscent of the Hitchcock film. Low have plenty of strong songs from their many albums that could be featured and their choice for inclusion is interesting. ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Pissing’ are obvious and popular choices tonight. The performance of ‘Pissing’ is both subtle and stunning, with its quiet guitar, bass and drums throbbing introduction, which builds and builds to its incendiary crescendo, only to fade and disappear with Steve Garrington’s final bass notes.

Low @ Glee Club Birmingham 24-4-13

Finally we have the encore. The seated audience have been pretty quiet and well behaved, but someone at the back shouts several requests for old favourite ‘When I Go Deaf’. Sparhawk looks over towards the culprit and for a moment you wonder if there may be violence or at least a severe verbal chastisement. However, following a “for my friend back there”, he and Mimi start gently singing the requested song, to be joined by Garrington’s piano, with the song building (like ‘Pissing’) to a fantastic crescendo. That makes three songs tonight from ‘The Great Destroyer’ album, which is strongly recommended if you are new to Low. Then ‘Last Snowstorm of the Year’ from early album ‘Trust’ is a welcome surprise, and includes Mimi sporting bells around her wrist as she drums, creating a Santa’s sleigh sound. The gig finishes with yet a further surprise, ‘I Hear….Good Night’, a great but lesser known track from a collaboration between Low and Dirty Three. And so, another marvellous evening of music from Low ends. They really do not sound like any other band.

Hebronix @ Glee Club Birmingham 24-4-13

Support act tonight is Hebronix, which is Daniel Blumberg from the band Yuck. He turns in a bewitching solo performance, during which he manages to sound like a full band, with multiple guitar parts courtesy of effects pedals and devices and a drum machine. He sets up a hypnotic groove with splendid crisp guitar playing and nice feedback. It will be worth looking out for his new the album, ‘Unreal’, which is due out shortly.

Low setlist: Plastic Cup; On My Own; Holy Ghost; Clarence White; Monkey; Waiting; So Blue; Four Score; Witches; Especially Me; Mother; Sunflower; Words; Pissing; Soon; To Our Knees. Encore: When I Go Deaf; Last Snowstorm of the Year; I Hear….Good Night.

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