Meltdown this year has brought a wide range of bands to the London Southbank. Some of them wouldn’t normally suit seated venues but others are a perfect match. Tonight, was one of those ideal moments. Low, with their wide-ranging temperament and beautiful harmonies, had a magical setting for their music.
Jo Quail had the job of opening up the night with here electric Cello. Using a loop machine to layer sounds, she carefully added percussive sounds and drawn out notes, then built up the layers, element by element while adding the melodies on top. At times, so quiet all you could hear were the clicks of camera shutters (sorry, mine too) clattering, before erupting into almost orchestral power. A seamless introduction to warm up the audience.
Opening up the set with new material is a bold statement of confidence in the tunes. Low don’t seem to be worried about normality though. They veer wildly across the dynamic range from steady lo-fi melodies to thunderous crunching noise. After a simple clock countdown from 5:00 minutes, they came on stage. The minimalist stage setup, with very little theatrics gives a sparse feel to the luxurious Queen Elizabeth Hall. Newly refurbished, its clean polished interior still had a faint new leather smell to welcome you in.
The whole set had the feeling of a tidal movement. Ebbs and drifts, peaks and troughs, building up to a stormy high tide. ‘Pissing’ was the breaking point, with crashing guitars, and clattering drums against the throbbing bass. The emotional load from the song built up till Alan Sparhawk was burying the guitar in his face before finally throwing it away onto the floor.
Even many of the abstract backing videos had a watery feel. Starting with the moon and its tidal pull, then moving to views of a boat from above and ripples in the sea in later songs. While it wasn’t always clear what they added to the music, when sometimes all you wanted to do was close your eyes and feel it overwhelm you. The rhythmic drumming and ethereal voice of Mimi Parker was enough to keep you in a trance-like state without the need for even any lighting.
The obligatory thanks to Robert Smith was followed up with comments on how his daughter was so impressed by the invite but his son would rather be watching Deftones - who were playing over in the Royal Festival Hall. Not only entertaining, it also highlighted just how much there was across the festival to suit any tastes.
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Robert Smith's Meltdown 2018 review