Concert review: Reaching higher ground with Low

A review of the band Low at the Barby Club on January 26.

American indie rock group Low dazzled fans at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club (photo credit: LIOR KETER)
American indie rock group Low dazzled fans at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club
(photo credit: LIOR KETER)
Minnesota minimalist trio Low returned to Israel Monday night after a five-year gap between visits like they hadn’t lost a beat.
Acting as if they were performing for themselves as much as for the few hundred fans crowded around the stage at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv, guitarist/vocalist Alan Sparhawk, drummer/vocalist Mimi Parker and bassist/keyboardist Steve Garrington locked into an intense, telepathic groove that did not let up for close to 90 minutes.
Low’s uncompromising music is the place where the delicate, ethereal hush of Iron and Wine meets the distorted cacophony of Sonic Youth, sometimes within the same song.
Some of the songs, like “Holy Ghost” from their latest 2103 album The Invisible Way and “California” from their landmark 2005 album The Great Destroyer started understated and lilting, and remained that way. Other offerings, like “On My Own” from the same album, began somewhat the same way but, thanks primarily to Sparhawk’s supersonic guitar effects transformed into a droning repetition of swirling, pounding dissonance. Still others, like “Murderer” from 2007’s Drum and Guns, fell somewhere in the middle. All of them, without exception, were relentless.
Low’s constants are Sparhawk’s emotive vocals, the haunting harmonies provided by his spouse Parker – reminiscent of Grace Slick and Paul Kantner in their Jefferson Airplane prime – and the hypnotic timekeeping provided by Parker on her rudimentary drum kit, with the “one brush, one tom, no sticks” credo creating a mesmerizing effect.
In an endearing comment to the crowd, Sparhawk thanked the audience for coming out en masse, because the band always worries beforehand that the local promoters on their tour will lose money after bringing the band to their country, putting them up in a hotel and taking them out to dinner.
To show his gratitude, Sparhawk called out for requests during the encores, and the audience bombarded him with suggestions. The winner for the entire crowd was a poignant version of “(That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace” from their 2002 album Trust.
Twenty years after forming, Low’s music and approach remains as persistently single-minded as ever, in their pursuit of some of that grace. In Tel Aviv Monday night, they found it in abundance.