low [2010]

Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
14 December 2010

Everybody loves a harmony. At least the decent, God-fearing ones do.

The harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low are quite simply the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. Trailing a few paces behind are Simon and Garfunkel. Maybe if Simon and Garfunkel had been married, they could have truly competed.

These harmonies are so pure, so magnificent and magical, that their live shows feel more like church revivals than indie shows. Appropriately enough, this night at Great American was part of a Christmas Tour, inspired (one would assume) by their Christmas EP, released in 1999.

Other than some sparse stage decorations and an inclusion of songs from this EP, it was pretty much a Low show. But a damn fine Low show. Dark, gorgeous, solemn, soaring. Awe-inspiring.

As must be quite clear by now, I cannot emphasize enough the experience of Sparhawk and Parker joining voices live in person. And perhaps even greater than this union is the anticipation of it – the two or three beats before the second voice comes in, the knowing of what is to come. At least once, in this moment, I literally found myself grabbing the arm of my friend standing next to me.

Even the fact that my view of Sparhawk was framed for much of the night by the Marge Simpson do of a white hippie dreadlocked guy did not lessen my enjoyment of this fantastic performance. I’m not sure anything could have.

The show’s highlights were numerous. “Long Way Around The Sea” (from the Christmas EP), “Laser Beam” (off of Things We Lost in the Fire) and “Murderer” (Drums and Guns) were some of the most memorable.

As in any decent church, the audience on this night was downright reverential. Silent adoration followed by passionate applause, just as you’d want. Loving, supportive and even encouraging, when Sparhawk tripped up during the encore, recalling “Over the Ocean” (from one of Low’s earliest “The Curtain Hits the Cast”).

I don’t consider myself a religious man, but experiencing Low live certainly comes close.