Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
Low and Memoryhouse at The Mod Club in Toronto
Frank YangYou’re not wrong, it really had been forever since Low last headlined a show in Toronto – well over five years, to be exact. It may not have seemed that long, what with them having been here supporting Wilco at Massey Hall in July 2007 and Alan Sparhawk having brought his Retribution Gospel Choir through town a number of times in the interim, but yes. Low sightings in Toronto have been, well, low.
The drought finally ended on Monday night at the Mod Club, however, with Duluth’s finest in town to support their latest effort C’Mon, their first in four years and that, I suppose, is all the explanation you’d need for why they haven’t visited. And as a return, it feels like a “where we’ve been” over the last decade or so. It predominantly resembles 2002’s Trust, with its warm, organic tones and relatively unadorned production, but you don’t have to dig too deep to uncover some of The Great Destroyer‘s overt rock moves or Drums And Guns‘ dark and crushing paranoia. It’s noteworthy that while that sequence of records confused and alienated much of their long-time fanbase – but won new devotees – blended together as they are on C’Mon they actually make a lot of sense and as such, it might be their most broadly satisfying record in some time.
Support for the evening were local dreampop ensemble and recent Sub Pop signees Memoryhouse. I first saw them back in December and while I liked much of what they were doing musically, those who criticized their live performances as being rather sleepy had a point. Perhaps in response, the Memoryhouse who took the stage on this evening were a full and proper band, with a rhythm section joining principals Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion and made for a still low key but more confident band up there than the one I saw a few months ago. Nouvion, in particular, was clearly more comfortable in the role of frontwoman, even working some dance steps into the show. And while this configuration certainly did what one would hope, filled out the sound and gave it some weight, it also made them more conventional-sounding; not necessarily a bad thing, but when there was all that space, it left more to the imagination. But even so, as a preview of their debut full-length due out before the end of the year, it ably demonstrated why one of the premier record labels around would be so keen to get them under contract. I look forward to seeing and hearing them grow.
Ask people what they’d expect a Low show to sound like and they’d probably respond with one or all of: slow, solemn, with beautiful harmonies from Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker and maybe a guitar freakout or ten. But handclaps and drum machines? Maybe not so much. So that their show opened exactly so with “Breaker” would serve as notice that the evening might not be so predictable. Okay, it was still all of the things noted above, but still surprising in a number of respects, not least of all that they were here as a quartet with Sparhawk’s compatriots from the Retribution Gospel Choir on bass on keys. But most significant was that despite having released their warmest-sounding record in years and playing just about all of it over the course of the show, live it took on a decidedly different character. It was slower, starker and aside from a few moments of lightness, if you hadn’t heard the record you might have thought the band was continuing on with the grim Drums And Guns aesthetic.
Perhaps the tension was just reflecting on the unspoken mood of the crowd, what with this being federal election night and the returns coming in over the course of their set not reflecting what the presumably left-leaning audience would have liked to see. Adding to the atmosphere was the fact that Sparhawk didn’t speak a word to the audience through the entire show, and only then because he flubbed the intro to their final song. At that point he chastised his own country for taking to the streets to celebrate an assassination and lauded ours, only to be informed that we might not be far behind – at which point they closed out, perhaps appropriately given the topics of conversation, with “Murderer”. The encore offered a bit of uplift, with Sparhawk not so subtly inquiring as to where one might acquire some pot and dedicating to us “Canada” before closing things out with a grand reading of “When I Go Deaf”, offering a most welcome bit of a catharsis and making the next four years – whether until the next election or when Low finally return again – seem just a bit more bearable.
Photos: Low, Memoryhouse @ The Mod Club – May 2, 2011
MP3: Low – “Especially Me”
MP3: Low – “Try To Sleep”
MP3: Low – “Silver Rider”
MP3: Low – “Murderer”
MP3: Low – “Breaker”
MP3: Low – “California”
MP3: Low – “Monkey”
MP3: Low – “In Metal”
MP3: Low – “Sunflower”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Troisieme)”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Gian Lorenzo Bernini”
Video: Low – “Try To Sleep”
Video: Low – “Belarus”
Video: Low – “In Silence”
Video: Low – “Breaker”
Video: Low – “California”
Video: Low – “Death Of A Salesman”
Video: Low – “Monkey”
Video: Low – “Hatchet”
Video: Memoryhouse – “Heirloom”
Video: Memoryhouse – “Bonfire”
Video: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
The disappointment at there not being any local dates for the Archers Of Loaf reunion has been mitigated somewhat by the fact that Eric Bachmann is still coming to town this Summer – he is bringing Crooked Fingers to the Horseshoe on July 3, tickets $13.50. Who knows what they’ll be playing – a new record is due out sometime this year – or even who’s in the band, but happiness is still the correct response. Update: The new record is called Breaks in the Armor and it’s out in October.
Urge Overkill are readying their first new record in pretty much forever with Rock & Roll Submarine, out next week, and are coming to town for the first time since NXNE 2007. Look for them and their medallions at The Horseshoe on July 7, tickets $15.50. Illinois Entertainer and Music Radar have feature pieces on the band’s return.
Cold Cave – last seen (or not seen given their fondness for playing in the dark) opening up for The Kills this past weekend – have scheduled a headlining date at The Horseshoe on July 14 as part of a Summer tour, tickets $15.
Acknowledging that making people choose between themselves and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart show at The Opera House on the same evening, Beirut and Owen Pallett & Les Mouches have added an August 4 show at the Phoenix to go along with the previously announced and sold out August 2 show at the same venue. Tickets are again $32.50 and will again surely sell out.
Continuing their mandate of only playing with other bands who are nonsensical clubs, Two Door Cinema Club are teaming up with Bombay Bicycle Club for a Fall North American tour that includes a September 17 stop at The Phoenix. Joining them will be The Lonely Forest, who have apparently convinced the other two that they are also a club. Or maybe just have a clubhouse.