Weekend (Re)Visitor: The Music of Low

The wife and I saw Low last night at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. It was a great venue and a great concert — we got treated to two sets and an encore, a good two hours of music. I don’t go to many concerts so I suck at reviewing them. I didn’t take notes so I don’t have the playlist. Nor did the experience, although it was great, provide me with any major insights in to the band, its music, indie rock, Mormon culture, etc. But I can share a few minor thoughts that I had during the course of the evening:

  1. The band is both much darker and a bit more funnier than I had previously realized.
  2. Alan Sparhawk is rather a bluesman, isn’t he? Watching him sit with a guitar in his lap and hearing it and his vocals — Alan is singing the blues.
  3. The harmonies sound even better in person.
  4. There is a lot of talk about blood and deserts and flowers and bodies of water and bodies.
  5. When Low gets written about, it’s always about Alan. When it is about Mimi, it’s about her in relation to Alan. When it’s about the bassist (Low has had 4; the current bassist is Steve Barrington), it’s about his relationship to Alan and to Alan and Mimi. In performance, yes, Alan is clearly the front man, but in some ways all 3 members are in their own world. There’s little interaction except through each of what they contribute to the music, but, you know, that’s what you want, I think, from a band like this. I guess what I’m getting at here is that the band doesn’t work without the bassist or any of the other members — the way the music is built just really works and when you can see every note being played and song, it really hits that point home.
  6. All three members of the band close their eyes much of the time while they are playing. Like prayer or meditation or simply intense focus. And it makes sense, not just because of the emotional intensity of the songs, but also because so much of  the music require precise hitting of and timing of notes (and of getting the silences right).
  7. Alan is one intense dude. I don’t know whether it’s an act or whether it was an off night (it sure didn’t seem like), but he was struggling in parts. Or maybe just really feeling it. Near the final 1/3 of the first set he deliberately pulled out four or five guitar strings at the end of a song that ends with the repeated lyric “I am nothing but heart.” He then mumbled a joke about it and casually got another guitar.
  8. There’s nothing explicitly Mormon in the music of Low. I mean, yes, you can pull out phrases and images. But it’s all rather oblique. However, what is clear is that Alan is grappling with faith and violence and love and humanity in his lyrics. And some of them give you chills — Murderer and Cue the Strings, in particular got to me last night. But really, that’s only the beginning. I mean, they must have played more than 20 songs.


Low: Official site, MySpace, Wikipedia

YouTube: Murderer, Monkey, In Silence, Belarus, Breaker

AMV: Alan Sparhawk on God’s language; Low’s “maudlin Mormon message”

Linescratchers: Q&A with Alan Sparhawk

Kulturblog: Susan M reviews a Low concert

2 thoughts on “Weekend (Re)Visitor: The Music of Low”

  1. #7. You know, it’s not easy at all to just pull strings out of your guitar. It’s just like smashing an electric guitar… they make it look easy, but man. It’s not as easy as it looks.

    #8. I would say there’s nothing explicitly ANYTHING in Low lyrics… maybe that’s why I like them so much. It’s not blatantly or arrogantly self-promotional, nor is it an autobiography. You can tell Alan selects words for their musical value in a sort of stream-of-consciousness sort of way.

    Great review. Thanks for this.

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