A “Forest” in the Paradise…

While P&C often sends reviewers to clubs, could it be that we sent Thom Lau into the forest of rock? Well, we’ll let him explain…hopefully his experience with The Low Anthem on Tuesday night, was welp, as advertised: In Paradise.

My friend Joe often snidely describes bands like the Low Anthem as “forest rock”. Typically these bands employ bearded men who record lushly produced, earthy albums in cabins across the wilderness. Think Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear et al. And although I don’t hold these bands with the same distaste as my friend, I am apprehensive how their often haunting, thoughtful brand of folk will translate to the live scene.

In my opinion these bands can try to recreate that perfectly crafted atmosphere from their records or turn the amps to 11 and make stomping “live versions” of their tunes. Before the Low Anthem have taken the stage, I already know they’re going with the former. The stage is littered with instruments; there are 2 harmoniums, 2 clarinets, a double bass, a marching horn, crotales and even a freakin’ saw (that admittedly does little to shake the “forest rock” tag) . It’s telling that a lone Fender Stratocaster sits at the back of all stage. There are only 4 people in this band right?

I quickly realise that 4 musicians is more than enough. Guitars and drums are frequently shunned for the swells and sweeps of strings, reeds and horns. Not an inch of sound space is left empty as waves of vocal harmonies join in with their delicate orchestration. The Low Anthem seem even more ridiculously talented as they shuffle between the myriad of instruments after almost every song.

They play mostly songs from their fantastic debut album “Oh My God, Charlie Dawn” with a smattering of new tunes from a new record due in Autumn. The tunes weave perfectly between gospel, bluegrass and folk as album highlights such as “Charlie Darwin”, “To the Ghosts, Who Write History Books” and “Cage the Songbird” and the crowd are savouring every treacle drop of the exuded atmosphere.

Oddly, it’s the rock songs that seem oddly out of place. The dirty jams of songs like “Home I’ll Never Be”, although certainly not lacking in grit and feeling, seem to tarnish the cathedral-like environment they’ve created in The Paradise tonight. However, if the Low Anthem have proved anything tonight, it’s that they are masters of their craft in any venue and this reviewer has been immensely impressed.

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