Concert Review: Low, May 2nd, Mod Club

Paul Neshevich

Image from Paul

slow·core /slow?core/ Noun

1. A genre of music characterized by haunting slow tempos, somber melodies, and forlorn vocals; also called sadcore

Slowcore is one of those mysteriously overused terms in modern music that some British journalist must have coined in the 90’s (see also: shoegaze–though no post 90’s band that seems to be labeled as such seems to be shy about looking up from their shoes during performance). I still have no idea what the “slowcore movement” is, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Funny how we never have these kinds of heated arguments about other subgenres, like whether a du-wop band is a du-wop band, or an Afrobeat band is indeed Afrobeat, and so on.

I guess my objection to the term might align with Minnesota’s Low’s same disapprovals. It just sounds boring, vague, and debbie-downerish. But if bands like Low and Red House Painters fit into this loose category, there is a kind of energy in it that is getting lost in the definition. Particularly when it comes to live performances. Those who remain skeptical need only refer to my brief encounter with Mark Kozelek.

Low’s performance at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto Monday night was yet another proof point that everything 90’s is new again, with the band touring in support of their new album C’mon.

Last night’s concert brought together one of the most random collection of show-goers I’ve seen in awhile (it’s one thing if you see a man your dad’s age at a concert, and quite another when you see a woman your mom’s age. Not sure why that is, but older moms just seem to look like fishes out of water at a club show) with frat boys, hipsters, and et cetera all mixed into one big stew. That said, a few things struck me immediately off the bat: first, this might possibly be the second best taming of an audience I’ve seen this year (Mark Kozelek comes first, but only by brute, abusive force). Low’s elegant set commanded major attention from everyone–to the point where the bartender whispered “I feel guilty–it’s so quiet” when we were ordering our beers.

I’m debating whether the nature of Low’s music would be best classified as quiet versus “slow burn”. There’s a build-up there, with natural progressions towards a creamy centre, and a fade-out again. I’ve decided that this style of music is very conducive to captivating a live audience, as is Mimi Parker’s understated, light drumming. Between frontman Alan Sparhawk and his wife, I’d say that Mimi’s sparse but sweet vocals trump his hand. Maybe it is time for her to fly solo.

I’d say the highlight of the show for me was Sunflower, but it was generally very well balanced with light conversation about Sparkhawk’s laments about “being from a country that celebrates the bombing of a person in the streets” and the coming woes we were to experience as a result of a conservative majority.

Their set may have been on the short side, but all in all, a nice night out.


  1. Breaker
  2. Try to Sleep
  3. You See Everything
  4. Monkey
  5. Silver Rider
  6. Witches
  7. Especially Me
  8. Last Snowstorm of the Year
  9. $20
  10. Majesty/Magic
  11. Nightingale
  12. Nothing But Heart
  13. Sunflower
  14. Something’s Turning Over
  15. Murderer
  1. Canada
  2. Two-Step
  3. When I Go Deaf

Posted on by Allison in Concerts

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3 Responses to Concert Review: Low, May 2nd, Mod Club

  1. Paul

    Actually, on a side note, there is some debate over whether a doo wop band is a doo wop band. I remember seeing an interview with one of the original doo wop guys (don’t remember who) who basically dismissed the term as a derogatory term in the same way that Low reject “slowcore.” Apparently, none of those guys called what they did doo wop. So I guess maybe somewhere, a group of bitter, angry doo wop fans and musicians are getting into heated arguments about genre.

  2. irene

    this setlist looks right.

  3. Richie

    Superb show from one of the most consistent live bands I’ve ever seen.. The stuff from their last 3 albums is all better live than on record. Could’ve done with one or two more oldies though (songs I mean, not audience members).

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