Posted in music | pictures on July 2, 2011

words by Parker Langvardt, photos by Grant MacAllister

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The June 30th Downtown Sound event, featuring Low at Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavillion opened with the solo performance of Irish folk singer-songwriter Glen Hansard (The Frames, The Swell Season). Hansard masterfully flowed between dynamic levels with his steel string guitar, which had a chunk missing just under the sound hole. A highlight of the performance was a Van Morrison cover, which happened to be the first song he ever learned to play.

His goal when he picked up the guitar was to sing to people he didn't know, and a teacher of his told him to start at the bottom, so he began busking. Hansard yelled and strummed his guitar with the timbre, speed, and consistency of a machine gun. He hilariously added fuzz distortion to the acoustic guitar during the bridge, increasing the gain until it blurred into note-less chaos for one measure, resolving back to beautifully clean acoustic guitar. He ended the Van Morrison cover with a heavy doom riff that sounded straight out of Sleep's 53-minute epic "Jerusalem," then humorously proclaimed, "The spirit of the Lord is in the house!" like a southern preacher. He toned it down to play "Lucia," a song about a failing relationship in which he says, "Your heart's not in it, babe." Hansard's last song was written for a friend of his, and he dedicated to anyone in a struggle, singing, "We're going to make it across this river of life."

Low took the stage in all black, with the exception of keyboardist's red sunglasses- they later mentioned that they attempted to match their attire to the predicted severe weather, but it ended up pleasantly sunny. The band took up very little room on the stage- even the drums were a stripped down set made of a floor tom, snare, ride, and sizzle cymbal. Mimi Parker played standing up with a felt mallet and a brush, never exerting too much energy. They opened with the soothing "I'm Nothing but Heart" from their 2011 LP, C'Mon. "Nightingale" had a soft Latin blues vibe reminiscent of moments on the past two albums by The Black Keys, with a slow vibrato guitar pulse. "You See Everything" took the energy from relaxing to engaging during the build of the last chorus. They also played "Monkey," which Robert Plant recently covered on Band of Joy, and "Witches."

The band barely moved their bodies through the majority of the performance; the vocalists focused on producing clear vocals, while the bassist and keyboardist played with perfect simplicity. Mimi Parker's percussion on "Cry me a River" was nearly silent, making Alan Sparhawk's vocals even more powerful. Certain songs would have been better suited for stormy weather, particularly "Majesty/Magic" and "Sunflower," but it was a phenomenal performance. After they stepped to the side of the stage at the end of the set, Sparhawk said, "Encores are a perverse tradition," and they sang "When I Go Deaf" with the most emotion of the night.

A set of pictures from Monday night at Jay Pritzker continue below..

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Low
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Low - Jay Pritzker 6/27 Setlist:
Nothing But Heart
Nightingale
You See Everything
Monkey
Silver Rider
Witches
Especially Me
$20
Majesty/Magic
Sunflower
Last Snowstorm of the Year
Pissing
Try to Sleep
Violent Past
•••••••••••••••••••••••••
When I Go Deaf
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