Low @The Barby

Low - Mimi Parker/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Low – Mimi Parker/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

The glow, that is the feeling that stays with me. The glow I saw all around me, that listening look. Onstage: Low, on the last night of their Mediterranean tour, all three musicians playing as if they were at home, inviting a sense of intimacy to that full house. That glow.

And the music, the songs that can begin almost as a suggestion, the breath of a word, a soft, insistent rhythm. Music and lyrics that can go anywhere, from a whisper to an explosion of electric distortion that rips through the night. Low performed a concert at The Barby in Tel Aviv that was such a gift, song after song, giving and giving with such intense concentration, until it was done – and then they gave some more. The crowd would not let them go, and incredibly (I just can’t remember when I have seen this happen before, it’s so rare), they came back for a second encore.

Low - Alan Sparhawk/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Low – Alan Sparhawk/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

But let’s begin at the beginning.

Low are Alan Sparhawk on vocals and guitar, Mimi Parker on vocals and drums and Steve Garrington on bass and keyboards. Sparhawk and Parker are a couple on and off stage, the connection between them is spellbinding. Although Garrington is a more recent addition to the band, the rapport between all three onstage is so easy and low key, giving the concert a very intimate feel. The band was founded in 1993 and have the rich repertoire and depth of their years, retaining all the urgency and rebellious rough passion.

Sun Tailor/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Sun Tailor/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Opening for Low was Sun Tailor, who has just recently released his second album This Light. Having just seen him on the Barby stage a few weeks ago, accompanied by a full band that included a violinist and cellist, it was quite striking to hear him performing solo – the songs retaining their full emotional impact.

“Let’s do this,” Sparhawk said as the three musicians took the stage, and they did, beginning with a hypnotic beat, and No Comprendo, a song so understated it was almost conversational – “No, you didn’t understand me…” until it took off in unexpected directions: an ethereal harmonic refrain “your house on fire.” The next song, Plastic Cup, from latest album, The Invisible Way ( 2013, produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy), winds its meditative way through some thoughtful turns, from recreational drugs to eternity – it may just be my new favorite.

The concert drew on songs from the entire repertoire, all the way to Words from the band’s first album I Could Live in Hope (1994), and including California, chosen “Song of the Year” on Israel’s HaKatze Radio. The minimalist structure of the songs creates room to think and feel, mirrored by the space between the three onstage, and the intensity of their connection. The music induces a state of heightened awareness, a more sensitive listening. Low’s music is the sound a thought makes as it moves through the mind. The harmony between Sparhawk and Parker sounds like morning sun on a spider’s web: iridescent, as resilient as it is beautiful, with intimations of danger.

Alan Sparhawk - Low/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Alan Sparhawk – Low/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Mimi Parker - Low/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Mimi Parker – Low/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Links: Low website, fan page

Sun Tailor fan page