Scratchy put on his flak jacket and made his way down to Portsmouth to catch Low performing at the Wedgewood Rooms. The place itself is a good medium sized purpose built venue with decent acoustics and a stylish adjoining chill out bar. The crowd was a bit on the spartan side (reflecting the style of the music, perhaps?) but they were enthusiastic enough, that is if you can call the Low fan base enthusiastic, let's just say that the door staff had no worries of having to curtail any over exuberant stage diving on this particular evening.
Up as the support were Portland duo The Helio Sequence who are signed to the Sub Pop label. They impressed with their big sound infusing a mix of shoegaze and baggy vibe with occasional Arcade Fire like crescendos. Brandon Summers multi-tasked with aplomb on vocals and guitar and Benjamin Weikel, who has had Modest Mouse duties to his credit, put in a passionate drumming performance, as well as somehow finding time for some keyboard action. It was a big sound for two guys to pull off and mostly they succeeded. The 'Helio' sound could occasionally do with some extra vocal/instrumental input to add a fresh dynamic especially when performing live. They could become an electrifying three piece and are already worth making waves in their current format.
Low came on in an atmosphere of reverence, the crowd were intent on creating the right conditions for the special minimal stark Low sound to make it's full impact. Alan Sparhawk on lead guitar and vocals took control of proceedings perfectly counterbalanced by his wife Mimi Parker on drums and vocals. The new band member, Matt Livingston, in the middle was concentrating hard on bass duties and did come across a bit of a gooseberry but the group interaction will no doubt develop in time. They seemed a bit nervous, not so much as performers, but as in between live entertainers, which was strange given the long history of the band and the supreme control they have over their material. The set list had a good mix of their quiet tunes mixed up with numbers from their punchier more recent albums 'Drums and Guns' and 'The Great Destroyer'. These were delivered to spine tingling perfection and were met with appropriate reverence by the assembled throng. Indeed, at times, I felt like I was in the midst of a congregation of dutiful worshippers at a solemn ceremony but that's the effect of the fragile unearthly sound of Low. Come the encore, the trio managed to unshackle their inhibitions and let their unique sound soar to new heights, releasing the full majesty of their music to the delight of the gathered throng. Lo and behold! for ye shall follow...