Not surprisingly this was a magical show. How could it not be? Is there a better venue in Chicago that would be more perfect for Low to play in? I suppose the obvious answer is a church, but Epiphany doesn’t seem to do shows any more. I arrived fairly early in order to suss out a spot on the balcony but not early enough apparently. I was early enough to catch most of Gaberdine’s set and they were quite excellent. Finally, something nice to say about an opening band!
Low kicked things off with an interestingly brief rendition of ‘Breaker’ off of ‘Drums and Guns.’ They tried to get the audience to clap, but no one would do it, sadly. From there they launched into ‘C’mon’ and played the entire thing pretty much in order over the course of the night. The final chunk of songs in the main set was comprised entirely of the second side. The new material proved to exude an effortless grace and beauty—witnessing the songs live basically gave the impression of the songs as they would’ve been had they ended up on any of the first three records. ‘Try to Sleep’ took on more the air of a restrained lullaby than the bright, wide-eyed poppy momentum that it has on the record. ‘Nothing but Heart’ was the song where it seemed to me that they finally caught all that they were reaching for over the course of the entire night. Occasionally moments where the band is aiming for a more rocking out type of moment don’t quite take off sometimes—their penchant for restraint seems to be a bit too ingrained at times—but ‘Nothing but Heart’ reached those heights to be certain. The new material ruled the show, that’s for sure. For me this also made the fact that they played absolutely nothing off of those first three records a very minor gripe.
As far as older material they stuck to the most recent stuff—namely ‘The Great Destroyer.’ The oldest song they played was ‘Sunflower’ off of ‘Things we Lost in the Fire.’ Every time I’ve seen Low I’ve always harbored the hopeless delusion that they might, just once, play ‘Over the Ocean.’ I assume that the reason they don’t is that they’d probably been playing it for almost ten years by the time they abandoned it. Highlights amongst the older stuff would include ‘Silver Rider,’ ‘Monkey,’ (which I’ve always loathed on record) 'When I Go Deaf' and the unspeakably gorgeous ‘Murderer.’ There was only one song that I didn’t recognize at all (I never bothered to buy ‘Drums and Guns’).
The show was packed to the gills—a nice change from the last time I saw Low, which was at the Metro in 2007. Stefanie and I went to Reckless Records and found a giant pile of free tickets for the show on the counter and the clerk begged us to take as many as possible. It was a decent show, but definitely not as stirring as the first time we’d seen them, which was in Portland in 2004 just before ‘The Great Destroyer’ came out. The show at the Metro was one of the only times I’ve been to the Metro where you could tell how dismally undersold the place was. One of the other times was when we went to see the Warlocks in 2005. If I’m going to be in a cramped room for a sold out show I think that it might as well be for a Low show—a quiet and considerate audience as always. Perhaps this is to make up for the crappy crowd at the godspeed show.
One of my biggest pet peeves is that bands that are brave enough to mine their material using a slow, graceful and careful beauty are written off as ‘boring’ by so many so thoughtlessly. It’s always been something of a sad shortcoming to me over my show-going years. You know what I mean—when Spiritualized launched into ‘Oh baby’ at the Metro in 2008 most people decided it was the perfect moment to go get a beer. Too many people would prefer something fast and impossible to ignore that they can shake their asses to over something soft and beautiful. It’s because of this that tonight was so encouraging—it really seemed like it might’ve been the end of the line for the band a few years ago. They seemed to have really hit a wall and people seemed to have really lost interest during those rocky years. It’s nice to see them back to doing what they do best, doing it well and with a lot of heart as well as infusing it with some of what they had been reaching for during those rocky years. Even better that people are so invested in their new and thoroughly excellent new material. They are rejuvenated.