Published Jan 01, 2006At a live show, the surest way to know you are amongst a room of true fans is if the band receives as much respect, attentiveness and enthusiasm for its unfamiliar new material as for the old familiar favourites. Fortunately, this was the case when Low passed through Vancouver on a road test for some new material in the works for their next album, which is likely still a year away. For those unfamiliar with this Duluth, Minnesota trio, as their three-letter name might suggest, Low represent the epitome of understated minimalism. Their brilliance and relative success relates largely to their ability to play music that is simultaneously sparse and full. While not such a feat in the studio, it's genuinely impressive to see it executed so well live. Low may in fact be in a league of their own in their ability to make every chord (and even every pause) meaningful and important within the confines of an unfavourably laid out dance bar. The other element making the show magical was the beautiful harmonies created on almost every number between the wife/husband team of singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawk and singer/drummer Mimi Parker. While the majority of the songs in Low's repertoire share somewhat of a slowcore uniformity, a few songs during the set, such as "Canada," stood out, providing some variety without leaving things disjointed. The show's highpoint was a brand new song, "California," which featured a faster tempo and more abundant guitar and bass elements than one might expect. Taking a turn at the end of the show, which could have led to either good or bad things, Sparhawk asked the crowd what they would like to hear. Unsurprisingly, the room was suddenly inundated with inaudible requests. In fact, the only cry I could make out was for, yes, you guessed it, "Freeeeeebird!" Luckily, tonight the trio seemed to be feeling obliging, but not too obliging. And with only a comment that they were trying to wean themselves off a song they had played every show for four years, things ended with the honouring of several requests for some older favourites called out by faithful fans glued within earshot to the front of stage.