the Hi-Tone, Memphis, Tennessee
Friday, 19 November 2001
It might just have been the quietest night the Hi-Tone has ever seen on a Friday, but Low guitarist/singer Alan Sparhawk seemed to have other thoughts. On stage about midway through a stellar set, he (half) jokingly remaked "you know where I come from in Minnesota, talking's free. You guys pay a lot of money to talk." Both a reminder that the crowd needs to keep it down, since the sparse sound of the trio barely fills the space in most clubs, and a statement that Low is starting to get places. The last time Low came to Memphis (October of 1999 at the tiny Map Room) the crowd was both smaller and less noisy. What makes a Low show the experience that it can be is the total concentration of the audience to hear every note Sparhawk, his wife Mimi Parker on drums/vocals and bassist Zak Sally produce.
The set focused mainly on songs from their forthcoming fifth LP, "Things We Lost in the Fire", whose lead single (and possibly the highlight of the set), "Dinosaur Act", not only broadens the basic Low sound, but could broaden the band's ever growing fan base. The typical quiet, slow sound one has come to expect at a Low show was still evident in songs aired from the new LP (especially "Closer"), while some tracks, seemed, well, for Low, to rock (see "Dinosaur Act", "Sunflower"). And for louder, delay pedal fun, there was the stellar "Do You Know How To Waltz?", where for at least 10 minutes, Low actually overpowered the noise coming from the bar. Smiles seemed to be all around for the encore, the love song to Alan and Mimi's daughter Hollis Mae, "In Metal" described by Sparhawk as "a fun one", and their 1995 single "Shame", maybe the most beautiful song I ever saw on MTV.
Singer/songwriter Shannon Wright opened the show, almost solo on eithier acoustic guitar or Wurlitzer piano, her only accompaniment a drummer. What did go on was one of the most intense (emotionally) performaces i have ever seen. Wright beat on her instruments and screamed in ways the bring the sadness in her songs straight into your heart. She was joined by Low's Alan Sparhawk for an unforgetable cover of the Bee Gees "I Started a Joke".
Should Low come to your town, rush out to where ever they may be, and don't be afraid to "sssshhh" everyone around you.
- Patrick Glass