Minnesota natives Low played a gorgeous show last night at the New York Society for Ethical Culture concert hall. The sweeping antique auditorium, with its velvet pews and soaring, curved ceiling, was the perfect setting for the band's intimate yet intense performance. Starting off with a few tracks from their new album, The Invisible Way, they seemed a bit restrained, barreling through the music without speaking to the audience (when Alan Sparhawk did address the audience, he mumbled with adorable shyness and quickly moved on to playing more music). All that changed, though, once they went back into the catalogue to play "Monkey," a dark, thumping song off of The Great Destroyer. That burst of energy stoked the fire beneath their new material. Clearly audience favorites from the new album included the Mimi Parker-focused "Just Make It Stop" and "So Blue," but the dedicated audience was also thrilled to hear a few oldies, including "July," "When I Go Deaf," and "Dinosaur Act," meriting a few standing ovations and enthusiastic cheering. The opening act, Acme String Quartet, joined Low for the second half of the show, lending some country sensibilities to their music, which was appropriate for the Jeff-Tweedy produced Invisible Way, but filled in some minimalist gaps that may be better left empty.
Without a doubt, the most powerful performances were "Murderer," a song that you could only hear live until they recorded a subdued version for Drums And Guns in 2005 (still sounds better live), and "Pissing," a heart-wrenching dirge with the swelling, desperate cry of "Under every stone / Lovers sleep alone." It's one of the few songs I actually refer to as a "suicide song," and looking around the room last night, there were multiple people wiping their eyes or hiding their face during the chorus. But such is the way of a Low concert: the listener enters a dream world of darkness, intensity, and contrasts and is often swept up in emotions they didn't know they had.