Published May 24, 2014Halfway through "On My Own," the second song of Low's set at Halifax's OBEY Convention festival, sweetness turned to a snarl. The performance began as the sort of comfortable-but-catchy folk song that seemed a perfect fit for the high ceilings and higher callings of Fort Massey United Church, but suddenly Alan Sparhawk's Gibson guitar exploded in noise, a massive wall of distortion reverberating through the church's cavernous interior. It was an incredible tone — the first of many incredible sounds that flowed through Low's 14-song performance.
The venue played a big part in how great Low sounded last night. A church is a particularly ideal setting for a band skilled at picking through the various corners of American indie rock and stitching them together, jangle by jangle, into a slow-burning patchwork. But credit where credit is due: from the guitar tones to the immaculate harmonies of Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker, you could perfectly discern every single tiny note of Low's set, and there was not a bum one in the bunch. The near-capacity crowd soaked it all in from the comfort of their pews, letting each impeccable soundscape wind its way to silence before erupting in applause.
Low is perhaps the most well known band to have played Halifax's Obey Convention in its seven years and, certainly, one of the longest running ones. The band didn't exactly play from its full history (the earliest song was a single track, "Sunflower," from 2001's Things We Lost in the Fire) but the material perfectly played to the band's strengths: harmony, escalation, patience and space. Though they once wore the somewhat-derived genre term "slowcore," Low has become a much more varied live act than its members are sometimes given credit for, demonstrated in their skill at weaving songs by both Springsteen ("I'm on Fire") and Rihanna ("Stay") into their canvas.
"Thanks so much, your city is lovely — we'll come here anytime," said a gracious Sparhawk during one of the few moments of banter during the show. After last night, consider the invitation standing.