LOWHarvest Sun @ The Epstein Theatre 4/8/16
Since the release of their debut LP I Could Live In Hope in 1994, LOW have become one of the most critically adored and fervently admired bands on the face of the Earth. Their performance at the Anglican Cathedral in 2013 was possibly the best of that year in this city, and with the promise tonight of a rare two-set display there is the sense we are once again in for something special.
The three-piece, comprising spouses Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk accompanied by Steve Garrington on bass and keys, enter the stage to an understated electronic drum track. There is a momentary sense of adjustment to their new surroundings before they ease into Gentle, the first track from their latest full-length, Ones And Sixes. The lynchpin of any Low performance or record is always the sumptuous harmonies between Sparhawk and his wife, and it takes all of five seconds for this blissful vocal intertwining to materialise. It has to be said at this point that Harvest Sun have absolutely nailed the venue choice. The acoustics of the space incubate the subtle yet powerful sound of the trio perfectly, whilst the size and the layout of the Epstein are conducive to a level of intimacy that allows the audience to truly experience the beauty of what is occurring on stage.
A rendition of cult favourite Plastic Cup breaks up the exquisite melancholy of the first set nicely and allows an element of humour and surrealism to creep into what has otherwise been a thematically bleak and existential experience.
After a short interval the crowd re-take their seats ready for the second performance. There are not many bands around that could firmly hold the attention of an audience for three hours without it becoming tiresome, but at the end of the first set there was a definite sense that we were just beginning to scratch the surface and so deeper we delve.
This half seems more geared towards classic tracks such as Sunflower and Monkey with songs from the new record slotted in. Simple and emotionally honest, they often blend into each other even when there is a sizeable gap in between, making for a cohesive and almost seamless sonic experience. Parker’s singing is extraordinary, and Garrington’s creative input on both the bass and synths is impressive but by far the most breathtaking element of the night is Sparhawk’s sheer vocal ability. His gravelly and barely audible speaking voice is transformed into something quite transcendental when strained to a melody and it is clear that this has come about not just from natural ability but decades of personal expression.
As the second half draws to a close it feels as though as we have all been on a journey together. Despite the lengthy duration, the crowd appear unfazed and hungry for more and, eventually, with forceful encouragement, a short encore does occur. There are definitely many in Liverpool who wish they could have been here tonight but, alas, it was sold out. Then again, of course it was. This is fucking Low. Playing for three hours. In a theatre.