Live Reviews

  The Low Anthem live at The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow

Before we talk about the music of The Low Anthem, I'd like to say a little about the band members. They're all multi-instrumentalists for a start, chopping and changing at every song and excelling at each instrument as they do. Ben Knox Miller is a folk musician and painter. Jeff Prytowsky is a jazz bassist and baseball scholar. Jocie Adams is a classical composer and NASA Technician! And though I could find no such information about recent addition, Mat Davidson, I'm sure he's probably working on a cure for cancer in orphans. On paper, you get the impression that these four rustic looking scamps would have excelled at anything they chose to do. It is our eternal debt to them that they chose to form The Low Anthem, for this was one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

Normally I'll give an idea of the band set-up. You know the sort of thing, guitar, bass, drums, blah, blah, blah. The stage was littered with instruments with each of the four band members capable of playing any and all of them. Hell, I'm not even sure what some of them are! While Jocie would bow some kind of lap-steel saw, Ben would be tinkering with what looked like an ornate cupboard, opening and closing its door while performing esoteric folk rituals we could not see. There were guitars, double bass, clarinet, harmonium, drums, the afore-mentioned lap-steel saw (I'm making this up as I go along but you try describing it!), an ACTUAL saw and at one point even a French horn! At the point the French horn appeared, the audience were asked to telephone the person next to them with both phones on speaker, and hold them together, creating a sort of feedback look that created around the Fruitmarket something akin to robotic crickets chirruping away in a digital cornfield. Though don't let that give you the impression that this band were about gimmicks or being show offs on all manner of instruments, quite the reverse.

So what do they sound like? Well, if you we're watching The Last Waltz - the film of The Band's final concert featuring luminaries of American folk, r'n'b, rock'n'roll  - and they came on between Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, you wouldn't be surprised. Not that they sound dated or old, just authentically Americana, making songs that are ethereal, timeless and imbued with elements of folk, country, gospel and more. However, they also know just when to change gear to rollicking throaty blues to wake the audience from their dreamy reverie. Every song was a delight in an individual way, every performer brilliant in every way. I'd love to go back and watch the same concert again and again and observe each band member individually get lost in their performance. Not only that, for a band so clearly brilliant, they were incredibly humble and seemed honoured that such a large crowd had turned out to see them, which made them even more endearing.

Highlights included "Charlie Darwin", which Ben performs in haunting falsetto, and a stripped down finale featuring only guitar and vocal harmonies, the band gathered round a single microphone, a heavenly light casting a glow around them. Though they and I are staunchly agnostic, I wouldn't have been surprised if, while their heavenly voices echoed around a hypnotised Fruitmarket audience, the Rapture hadn't occurred, the band had sprouted angel wings and they'd begun to ascend heavenwards singing as they went. What a beautiful and unforgettable concert. Seek them out now.

Review Date: January 28 2010