Saturday, 22 November 2008

Review: Low Christmas Concert @ Koko, Camden 19th November 2008

I’ve already had my Christmas party this year! It’s a little early I know, but when I saw that Low were coming to town to perform a Christmas concert I just couldn’t resist treating myself to a ticket. Being as I was the only person I knew going to the concert it was a pleasure to meet and converse with two of Lows biggest fans huddling a cup of tea at the front of the queue outside Koko’s. We sat on some of London’s finest free newspapers to keep our derrieres warm and they shared their experience of seeing Low in Manchester the night before with me, wetting my appetite for the evening ahead. When Koko’s doors were finally flung open we wasted no time heading straight to the stage to claim our spot at the front (well I took a quick detour to get a medicinal brandy at the bar – hey it was a party right?!) and we continued to chat and enjoy the warmth – it had been a cold wait! Incidentally, it was at a Low concert in that very same venue four years earlier the couple had first set eyes on each other, and they got married four months ago, so it was a special night for them.

The first act of the evening was an American band called Ida, who are good friends of Low. They have been together for around 10 years but this was their first time on tour in the UK. Ida played a sweet set of folk type music accompanied by beautiful and, at times, haunting vocal harmonies. I particularly liked the way they infused slow Spanish Guitar style techniques into some of their songs, the result was very relaxing and easy on the ear.

Daniel Littleton from Ida

After a short break, Low's three members took to the stage. They started their set with a new song which I don't know the name of, but from my memory sounded decent. This was followed by a crowd pleaser, and one of my favourites, “Murderer”, which, after a few technical glitches at the beginning, sounded superb. Alan Sparhawk, the lead singer, then announced: “This show is dedicated to John Peel, who championed us (long pause) and to the most powerful person in the world”. Someone in the audience shouted out “Play the music!” to which Sparhawk responded “that guy's mom.” There were some more heckles during the evening which I’ll mention later.

They played a few more songs, including "On The Edge Of", "Sandinista" and "Shots and Ladders" before launching into the Christmas section of their show (the bit where I put my Santa hat on - nah not really, but I did sort of wish I had one with me). They performed all the songs off their Christmas EP including my favourite “Just Like Christmas”. Mimi Parker, the drummer and vocalist, has a great voice and the drums and bells made me feel like it was snowing outside. I should add at this point that Ida had come back on stage to accompany Low, along with drummer Eric Pollard from the Retribution Gospel Choir, to create a “superband”, who looked like one big happy family. Well when I say happy, there were some grumbles from Mimi during which she said snarled at husband Sparhawk “I've known you for far too long”. It didn’t help when he then introduced all the musicians on stage and left her to last, to which she responded with a grumble that the audience clapped and drowned out – I don’t think any of us wanted to stand by and watch a domestic!

Mimi Parker

Their rendition of ‘Happy Christmas (War Is Over)’ really got to me and before I knew it I was feeling all emotional and fighting back a couple of tears. They also played a reggae-gospel tune which I thought Sparhawk’s voice really suited. The atmosphere was a little spoilt by another heckler at the back spurting out “I’ve been coming to Low gigs for 11 years, and this isn’t the Low I know!” Sparhawk responded “Well, I’ve been coming to Low shows for 15, 16 years...” and carried on. I felt maybe a couple of members of the audience were trying to provoke Sparhawk following his recent less than gentlemanly behaviour involving a guitar being thrown into the audience at The End Of The Road Festival but he kept his cool and remained professional. This was followed by a moving “If You Were Born Today” with some, perhaps depressing, but nicely expressed lyrics.

Alan Sparhawk

The show closed with “When I go Deaf” (another favourite of mine) and Sparhawk left the stage with one final message for us all: “Everything's going to be alright”. It felt strangely reassuring and I left with a smile on my face.

My only criticism of the evening would be at the lighting people and the way they almost blinded us with a large beam directed straight into the audience’s faces every few minutes, rendering it almost impossible to look at the stage. This did get pretty annoying and could easily have been avoided I’m sure. I don’t want to finish my review on a bum note though, so let me just say that it was a superb concert and I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year.


Citizen Meh said...

I was talking to a friend about the Low gig today, she mentioned the irritating hecklers too. Apart from that, sounds like a pretty great show!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fun show. Shame about the hecklers, I never understood why people shout mean things at bands they supposedly like.

madeline said...

Excellent post, as always! I feel like I was there! Great stuff, Chalky!

Cookiemouse said...

Christmas already? Ah well, it did snow here today.

chalky said...

The first heckler was really going for it and just wouldn't give up, I think the whole audience shouted out "Shut up!" in unison which was quite a funny moment and seemed to do the trick.

Thanks Madeline, great to hear from you, hope all is well.

Cookiemouse, we got a tiny weeny bit of snow yesterday as well but it was gone by the time I left the house for work and now I'm self employed it's actually a bad thing if I can't make it in! Hmmm

ruthelizabethjames said...

Hi, we met outside the Low show (I'm the Ruth bit of Ruth and Paul) :) and I just wanted to let you know the name of the band that did the '69 Love Songs'.

It drove me mad until I could check the name on the web the next day!

Anyway, it wasn't Neutral Milk Hotel, it was The Magnetic Fields.

Oh and anikainlondon, I know what you mean... some people seem to go along just to get pissy with the band.

I don't get it either.

chalky said...

Hey Ruth,

Great to hear from you, thanks for dropping by and for the info.

Hope you and Paul are doing well, was lovely to meet you both

Anonymous said...

We were at the Manchester gig and it was so good - I thought the hecklers were put in their place well.
What confused us was how peed off Mimi was - she spent the show growling.
We saw Low at Union Chapel in 2002 and I managed in a quiet bit to shout for Blue Christmas (which they went straight into) Later blagged my way into the dressing room for a brief chat and autographs. That show was good but manchester better (as we were both almost against the stage

Peter and Lorraine from Guernsey

chalky said...

Thanks for dropping by and for your comments Peter and Lorraine!

It's great when you can get right up at the front hey. Ruth and Paul and I had a lovely spot. Would love to see Low at the Union chapel, must have been a lovely experience and meeting them afterwards - you lucky people!

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