Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lowest Of The Low may be playing their final two Canadian shows ever this weekend (you can read more in an article I wrote this week at, so I went to see them at the Horseshoe last night because the band has so much significance to me.
I gave a rave review to the band's Shakespeare My Butt debut album after it came out in 1991 and, to this day, it remains my favourite Canadian album ever. If you haven't heard it, get it. I don't know anyone who has the album who doesn't have a major soft spot for it. The music from that album, and to a lesser degree from 1994's Hallucigenia, formed a large part of the soundtrack of my life in the early and mid-'90s. In addition to playing the albums for both myself and friends all the time, I rarely missed a show — and there were a lot of them.
I got drunk to the Low. I got laid to the Low. I first bonded with my former girlfriend of three years through our mutual affection for the Low. That got me laid a lot, too.
There was an intelligence to the lyrics that I could identify with, and there were a lot of Toronto references that helped give me a sense of ownership of the songs. They were singing about places I'd been and things I'd done. There wasn't anything complex about the music and the playing wasn't exemplary, but there were tons of melodic rook hooks everywhere. And on stage, there was an energy and an edginess that was unmistakable.
When the group broke up and the members went their separate ways from 1994 until 2000, I felt a void. But I was there for the reunion shows in 2000, and they were great. They spawned the Nothing Short Of A Bullet live album. I've seen the Low a handful of times since then, essentially whenever I could. But it wasn't quite the same. Prior to last night, the last time I had seen the band was in August 2004, when it played with the Golden Dogs and The Trews at the Kee to Bala. But I was there more to get away for a weekend with some close friends than I was to hear music (though that was good, too).
The Low released Sordid Fiction last year during the same week I left for my around-the-world trip, so I didn't get to hear it then. When I got back in February, none of my friends were talking about the record and it didn't really register in my head. But I finally got a copy of it this week, and it's a very solid record. It's just not Shakespeare My Butt or Hallucigenia.
I was in the Horseshoe dressing room talking to and reminiscing with Craig and Leslie when the band hit the stage last night, and we all agreed that the new arrangements for some of the older songs weren't as good as the originals, and the new songs just didn't have the same kind of impact live.
About a half-dozen songs into the set, Leslie and I went out to stand at the side of the stage and watch the show. With two encores, the band played 25 songs in almost two hours. While Ron Hawkins played piano and Lawrence Nichols took over on guitar for some songs — including the Rusty Nails song Turpentine, a rollicking, slightly honky-tonk number where Lawrence added some fine harmonica playing — the band only reached the old energy, emotional and edginess levels in certain places when Ron and Steve Stanley were both playing guitar. The highlights of the main set were 4 O'Clock Stop and Beer Graffiti Walls.
Steve admitted that he didn't like Salesmen, Cheats and Liars before the band played it as its first encore. Many of us loved the song from the first time we heard it, and still do. After doing Everywhere And Nowhere from Sordid Fiction, the band got pumped for Gossip Talkin' Blues.
It left the stage and returned for another encore, beginning with Giulietta The Just from Sordid Fiction. For the Hand of Magdalena took me back to the early days, and was my favourite song of the night, though show closer Eternal Fatalist wasn't far behind in the pecking order. I would have liked to have heard Henry Need A New Pair Of Shoes and a number of other songs, but you can't have everything. A lot of people in the packed club said that they'd be back again for tonight's show. Unfortunately, I'm too busy and can't go. But if the Low have ever touched you in any way, you should see the group tonight. And get there early because there's a good chance it will sell out.
I was pleased after last night's show. If it was the last time that I'll ever see the band, I can live with that. It's probably a good time for both of us to move on. There will still be lots of fond memories. After all, we'll always have Ultrasound, and Sneaky Dee's, and the El Mo ...

np Frank Black - Honeycomb

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