Words by Ed King
The term ‘Sold Out’ has more than one meaning. But on a bill poster for a Mormon rock band, playing on a Monday night in Birmingham, it’s nothing short of miraculous.
Low – the Minnesota three piece and founders of ‘slowcore’, had packed out The Glee Club with very little shouting. Outstanding. Especially in this city. But as they say, mysterious ways…
(I apologise; kind of sort of, for the God jokes. Low’s lyrics can err towards the presumptuously sacrosanct – “One more thing I’ll ask you, lord, you may need a murderer, someone to do your dirty work.”)
Supported by the frustratingly talented yet timid Lanterns on the Lake; imagine Mogwai meets The Cinematic Orchestra with a blonde Hope Sandoval and no talking, Low came on stage all soft tones and smiles.
But as a heartfelt welcome prompted one woman to shout “we love you”, the blank (non)response from Low’s front man and founder, Alan Sparhawk, let the first tumble weed of the evening roll across the crowd.
Opening with ‘Nothing but Heart’, the penultimate track from their latest studio album – ‘C’mon’ (2011), Low felt immediately stronger on stage than they are in recordings. Jumping from old, to new, to classic; they simply sounded richer.
Additional keys on ‘Silver Rider’ added more weight; whilst the immediate presence of Sparhawk’s vocals on the otherwise tediously produced ‘Try to Sleep’, gave them an understated gravitas live. I began to understand why so many people turned up.
Another colloquial heckle, ‘Hit the drums’ (or maybe, ‘In the Drugs’??), spawned another awkward pause, before three new album tracks played back to back; ‘Witches’, ‘Nightingale’ and the beautifully delivered ‘Especially You’ – Mimi Parker’s vocal lead a definite on stage improvement.
Low felt confident and proficient, yet detached from an audience in obvious support. A distance opened up between the crowd and the stage, and a few people started to leave; albeit quietly and politely.
Stopping Ms AN and Mr RC (names hidden to protect the candid) as they shuffled down the stairs, I was told “they’re just not very exciting” by her and “if it was the first band we’d stay” by him. Both sentiments I found hard to contest.
Ironically, Sparhawk soon regained animation, joking with the crowd; “I hope the bar brakes even,” whilst warning us, “you can move if you want to, don’t get bed sores”. But as the remainder of the set crawled into an uncomfortable encore, which finished to a relieved but believable applause, it never felt like we were fully let in. A shame and a waste in a room full of people.
I still can’t believe how Low so confidently ‘Sold Out’ – let’s run through it again; Mormon, rock, Birmingham, Monday.
And whilst I personally won’t be clamouring for tickets to see them again (…I don’t think they’ll miss me), I also can’t accuse them of the more pejorative descriptive.
For more info on Low visit http://chairkickers.com
For more info on further gigs at The Glee Club, visit http://www.glee.co.uk/birmingham