Nine times out of 10 the things that audiences yell at bands are moronic. Like the guy who disruptively shouted out “Minnesota!” just as Low was getting into the mellow-cool zone of opening song “Gentle” at the start of its show Wednesday night at First Avenue. Toward the end of the performance, though, one guy did holler out the perfect response to a story singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawk told – while saying how much playing to a near-full First Ave means to his band – about seeing Run Westy Run literally start a fire on the same stage years ago.
“You lit a fire tonight!” the dude yelled back.
They really did torch the place Wednesday. Of course, the Duluth trio’s two-hour set wasn’t fiery in the explosive, watch-out-for-Iggy-landing-on-your-head punk-rock sense, but it also wasn’t just the low-lit, blue-flame slow burn that might describe a Low show of old. It was more of a crackling, hissing, flaring, ebbing and flowing kind of fiery performance that might go down as one of the all-time greatest of the band’s wildly varied Twin Cities concerts over two decades.
It certainly helped that the trio also just put out one of its best albums ever. Sparhawk and his bandmates -- singer/drummer Mimi Parker and bassist/keyboardist Steve Garrington – picked heavily from “Ones and Sixes,” with eight songs total from the new Sub Pop release. They really did nail them, too.
“No Comprende,” which followed “Gentle” to kick off the show, boasted an even more powerful, ominous throb in concert as Parker’s vocal refrain, “This house is on fire,” rang out all too fittingly. “Spanish Translation” and “Lies” made for an intense pair toward the middle of the show, the latter demonstrating how effective Sparhawk and Parker are at building and playing off other’s vocals as they are at simply singing in harmony. Parker also shined on lead vocals in the serene, heartbeat-paced new ballad “Into You.”
They saved the new record’s most epic track, “Landslide” for the pre-show finale, one of only two songs in the set where Sparhawk cut loose on his guitar pedals while the band broke into an extended, droning jam (the other was “Pissing”). The encore kicked off rather sentimentally with the first song from the band’s first album, “Words” (from 1994’s “I Could Live in Hope”), sort of a reminder of how far Low has come but also how unmistakable its sound was even in its infancy.
After “Especially Me” and a coolly recalibrated, grindier “Murderer,” Sparhawk said good night again and seemed content to leave it at that. But the crowd wasn’t done. Fans kept cheering and gave the group a true, unexpected encore, which paid off in the form of a soaring “When I Go Deaf.” The poetic classic -- from 2005’s masterpiece “The Great Destroyer” -- encapsulated the show with its moments of pin-drop-quiet stillness and blurried, noisy chaos. A couple more encores would have been warranted, but it really was the best finish to what really was a perfect performance.
Here's Wednesday's set list:
Gentle / No Comprende / Monkey / Innocents / Pissing Cup / On My Own / Holy Ghost / Spanish Translation / Lies / Into You / Pissing / DJ / What Part of Me / Will the Night / Landslide ENCORE 1: Words / Especially Me / Murderer / ENCORE 2: When I Go Deaf