Live at Cockpit on Thursday, 27th April 2006
I missed the first couple of songs by Low's support act, My Latest Novel, due to a half hour frantic search for my ticket. Which was a shame, because the Glaswegian 5-piece gave an impressive performance. Despite being fully kitted out with a multitude of folksy instruments such as a violin, xylophone, and hand held percussion; the band incorporated claps, whistles and a variety of vocal techniques into their music. Most of their repertoire consisted of songs that built up to a powerful instrumental and four-part vocal layering, creating a really magnificent sound.
I was wondering whether such a dynamic support act might make Low sound bare in comparison, but was comforted to find this was not the case. It's always impressive when a three-person band manage to make the same mass of sound as a five piece, and Low do it better than most. The sound of Low live was a hypnotising experience. It was also slightly amusing to be part of a crowd nodding stonefaced along to surreal lyrics such as "tonight you will be mine, tonight the monkey dies" and "pissing on my toes".
The performance was flawless, disregarding a cock up and consequent restart of Silver Rider. The majority of tracks played were from the most recent album The Great Destroyer, but there was plenty from the older albums Trust, Things we lost in the Fire, and Secret Name. Although I was surprised to find they didn't play California, the most recently released single. Alan Sparkhawk, looking (I was delighted to notice) a little like Heath Ledger, didn't change his guitar once during the entire set. This reflected the consistent style Low have perfected during their ten year career. The highlight of the show was the poignant performance of When I Go Deaf, where the reverence in the room made it hard to breathe without feeling guilty, and coughing was met with reprimanding glares. Mimi Parker complimented Alan's vocals with dazzling harmonies and a voice that literally sounds like a flute.
The atmosphere was broken only by banter between Alan and persistent song requesters. He seemed to be complimented by the attention, laughing along with the crowd, which lightened the dark mood Low's melancholic style naturally creates. They played for a satisfying hour and a half, including a lengthy encore in which Alan experimented with a technique that, as far as I could tell, involved him bending over himself to play his guitar with his mouth. Disturbing as that was, it couldn't ruin a thoroughly enjoyable performance brimming with equal measures of melancholy and entertainment.