Live Review: Low, Mike Noga

12 April 2016 | 11:48 am | Steve Bell

"In the live realm their music seems to mesh with your very being."

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Melbourne singer-songwriter Mike Noga has been honing his solo craft for well over a decade now — curtailed only by his decade-long stint drumming for The Drones — and, armed with just his acoustic guitar, he seems back in his element carving out his heartfelt tales of loss and love. He revisits some powerful tunes such as Ballad Of An Ordinary Man and M'Belle from 2011's The Balladeer Hunter set, but he seems particularly invigorated while airing a stream of brand new tracks from an impending concept album that's clearly got him excited for the future.

The thin expanse of Black Bear Lodge is packed as Minnesotan trio Low take the stage to a muted but reverential welcome and kick off with slow-burning opener Gentle from last year's 11th long-player Ones And Sixes, a deep percussive pulse like a heartbeat underpinning the whole thing as Alan Sparhawk intones his mournful incantations. Just like on the album it segues straight into the sinister No Comprende, and while the pace of their minimalist aesthetic might be languid the sentiment cuts like a knife, the drums (provided by Sparhawk's wife Mimi Parker from her standing kit) now a deep throb. Parker takes the vocal reins for the spectral The Innocents, the husband-and-wife duo's vocals intermeshing enchantingly and adding to its hushed intensity. The trio — rounded out by bassist Steve Garrington — follow this opening gambit from the new album with three tracks from it's 2013 predecessor The Invisible WayPlastic Cup is brief but powerful, On My Own features a lethargic instrumental breakdown before building to a stunning crescendo, while during Holy Ghost you can hear a pin drop, even the clinking glasses at the bar seeming tentative such is the veneration for what's unfolding. The stately Monkey grows more menacing as it progresses, Low's natural velvet intensity running rampant, before more new tracks arrive in the form of the gloriously moribund Spanish Translation and the solemn (but not sombre) What Part Of Me. In the live realm their music seems to mesh with your very being, numbers like Pissing and the truly haunting Murderer proving that you can build massive emotional intensity without turning things up to 11. Especially Me is deep and sinuous and evocative, and they finish an incredible set with two new tracks Lies and the menacing Landslide, receiving a unanimous ovation. The fact that many old favourites are overlooked tonight in favour of new material matters naught because the performance is exquisite, and even when they encore with a transcendent rendition of Al Green's Let's Stay Together no one minds a jot (although they atone by delving well back into their catalogue to finish with Sunflower). Utterly beguiling.