Gig review: Low, Edinburgh

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
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On a rain-soaked Tuesday night in Edinburgh, with the balcony closed off and the lower floor busy but by no means packed, there was an undoubted sense that Low are not just some half-popular indie also-rans, but a real connoisseur’s listening choice.

Queen’s Hall

****

Their every note here was pristine and perfectly aimed, and their audience paid rapt attention, lending hollering approval at the end of each song.

Hailing from Duluth, Minnesota, hometown of Bob Dylan, the trio are this year celebrating both their twentieth year in music and the release of their tenth album The Invisible Way, which was produced by Jeff Tweedy of alt-country icons Wilco. This wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a wild, celebratory affair, for Low – as progenitors of the genre known as slowcore – don’t do noisy. They lined up in a modest row: Mimi Parker in the centre behind a large and sonorously beaten bass drum; her husband Alan Sparhawk to the left on guitar; and recently-added bassist and sometime piano player Steve Garrington on the opposite flank of the stage.

The music was stunning – a slowed-down tide of rolling emotion based around Sparhawk’s fragile holler and the increasingly pushed-to-the-fore voice of Parker. Their songs speak at once of world-weariness and clear-eyed questioning, shot through with black humour which saw Murderer ask of a lover whether they might need anyone offed, or Rihanna’s Stay retooled as a majestic ballad dripping with desire. “Thank you, you’re the home of rock ‘n’ roll,” declared Sparhawk at the end, clearly overwhelmed by the love.