REVIEW: Low at The Sage Gateshead

Masterful. Beguiling. Majestic; these are just some of the adjectives which sprung to mind whilst sharing an evening in the exulted company of Low.

Sunday, 7th August 2016, 10:17 am
Updated Sunday, 7th August 2016, 11:29 am
Low performed at The Sage Gateshead.

For fans of the Minnesota outfit, Thursday night’s performance in Hall 2 of the Sage was a veritable, unmissable feast, featuring over two hours of music spread over a pair of sets with a 15-minute interval in between.

A true cult concern, this peerless and elegant trio are arguably the definitive purveyors of the so-called “slowcore” genre.

Whereas most rock and indie looks to get the heart racing, Low and their contemporaries seek the complete opposite, restraining drive and impulse with waves of measured, dead-tempo beauty.

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All of this is achieved with the bare minimum of tools, with core husband-and-wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mini Parker complimented only by fleeting bass and keys from third member Steve Garrington.

For all these self-imposed limitations, the group’s live sound is as rich as it is captivating , fleshed out by Sparhawk’s supreme guitar playing and percussionist Parker’s mesmerising vocal harmonies.

Studied, sedate and utterly immersive, it would have been easy to drift off had the sounds not been so bewitching and sublime – especially with nothing in the way of chat to break the spell.

Despite leaning heavily on (typically excellent) latest album Ones and Sixes, the set itself bore a little something for everyone, with cuts spanning the entirety of their 23-year career.

This pitted new favourites like The Innocents and What Part of Me alongside a clutch of established, carefully-selected classics – the lengthy debut album wonder Lullaby being my personal highlight.

So engrossing was the experience that the audience’s acclaim grew steadily louder as the night wore on, eventually reaching a crescendo following P******’s dazzling outbreak of volume and distortion.

As the rapture faded, you got the sense that many in attendance could quite happily have soaked up another two or three of these hour-long mini-sets – and indeed that the band could have delivered, such is the breadth and depth of their catalogue.

As it is, the biggest compliment one can pay this show is to highlight and bemoan its only real downside: the abrupt and inevitable curfew.