Friday, April 22, 2011

Show review: Low, Gaberdine at Lincoln Hall, 4/21

Posted by Andrew Hertzberg

Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low
Oh, the joy of another windy, rainy, is-it-still-really-this-cold April night in Chicago. But given the ambiance, I can’t think of two better bands to have checked out at Lincoln Hall last night than Low and Gaberdine.

Chicago’s own Gaberdine started off with their lyrically strong brand of indie-folk. Lead singer Mark Federighi showed off his pipes, affecting a falsetto akin to Justin Vernon, while songs like "1918" appropriated a historical setting a la Colin Meloy. Aside from drums, bass and keys, the backing band consisted of a trumpet and cello, adding a warmer feeling to the often darker lyrical tones. Glockenspiel, harmonica and even a toy piano solo took their place as well. The band released a full length When We Land earlier this year, available on bandcamp (with "Run, Rabbit," one of my favorites from the set, available as a free download). 

Low’s signature minimalist sound was apparent before they even took the stage, with a simple setup including a guitar, bass and keys; the drums consisted of not more than a snare, a floor tom and two cymbals, one adorned with screws to further accentuate the decay. Accordingly, thus did things minimally begin. A spare recorded drumbeat and handclaps opened up "Breaker," the lead single off 2007’s Drums and Guns. Despite the sparse sound of the band, lead singer and guitarist Alan Sparhawk showed a magnificent amount of passion and energy, a strong force within a subdued craft. Behind the nearly skeletal drumkit was Mimi Parker adding the second half of the vocals.

Watching the pair croon back and forth, I couldn’t help but think of the relevancy the live show still retains. The mastery of their vocal nuances, perfected over 20 years, demands the audience’s attention against the superfluity of background music in daily life. Both Alan and Mimi presented this either as leads or providing backup for the other. The crowd’s response was a general awe. At one point, just as I was thinking there were too many lulls in between songs, Alan shot back at the silent Hall: “Nothing to say to each other?” Touche, Alan. But to be fair, you can’t expect the crowd at a show for one of the progenitors of a genre called "slow-core" to get too balls to the wall.

The set focused expectedly on their new album C’mon (Sub Pop), but for me, the standouts were the raucous guitar outro of "Monkey," lead track off of 2005’s The Great Destroyer and the gloomy repetition of "Sunflower" from 2001’s Things We Lost in the Fire. But that’s not to entirely count out the new album. The set closed out with its three last tracks, the wistful "Nightingale," the continually building-up 8 minute epic "Nothing But Heart," (how do they possibly keep track of how many times to repeat that line?) and the Cat Stevensesque, complete with ba-ba-bas, ode/lament to growing older "Something’s Turning Over." With the full album completed, the band took the obligatory leave of stage for the crowd to cheer ‘em back on. We were treated with a four song encore, the night officially closing out with the poignant and fate-consenting "When I Go Deaf." Hopefully not too soon, Alan. 

Low returns to Chicago Monday, June 27th at Millennium Park as part of the Downtown Sound series.

Try to Sleep
You See Everything
Silver Rider
Especially Me
Nothing But Heart
Something’s Turning Over
Violent Past

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