It’s been six years since Minnesota trio Low last graced Brisbane with their presence, and the crowd that packs out the Black Bear Lodge on this Thursday night (7 April) is clearly down for some Low.
Former Drones drummer Mike Noga kicks things off by plucking out a few plaintive tunes on his acoustic guitar. His voice has started to gain a raspy quality, which serves his world-weary ballads well.
His sombre cover of ‘Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings’ by Father John Misty (another drummer who left a popular band to pursue a solo career!) goes down a treat, before he wraps things up with the closing track from his forthcoming second album, which is sounding very promising indeed.
By the time Low takes to the stage we are sweaty and slightly restless: not the ideal state in which to listen to delicate music written and recorded on crisp winter nights in Wisconsin. But from the moment they ease into ‘Gentle’ from last year’s excellent 'Ones And Sixes' album the band masterfully holds the room’s attention.
The lyrics on ‘No Comprende’ sound like a direct transcript of an argument between husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker (“I didn't say it was a problem/ Before you start to make assumptions/ Let’s try to cut to the solution”). It is so intimate and personal as to feel voyeuristic, as if we should excuse ourselves while they work some things out.
The band’s use of volume, dissonance and distortion is sparing and unerringly tasteful and therefore more effective than most. Their set is more diverse than one might expect, with the band’s versatility on full display.
Some of the songs – the menacing ‘Monkey’ and ‘Landslide’ in particular – slowly build to glorious climaxes. During one such peak, Sparhawk shreds on the guitar with his teeth: not something you expect to see at a Low show. Also unexpected: during ‘Lies’ one woman, who presumably broke up with a compulsive liar recently, keeps whooping like it’s a Beyonce song.
After a quick break the band returns to play a beautifully stripped back and slowed down cover of Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’, which underscores the real weight of the words “Loving you whether/ Times are good or bad, happy or sad”.
Finally, the trio treats us to ‘Sunflower’ from their 2001 classic 'Things We Lost In The Fire' before saying their final goodbyes. Hopefully not for quite so long this time.