Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Swell Season; The Low Anthem @ Prospect Park

The Swell Season; The Low Anthem
@ Prospect Park
Brooklyn, NY - July 30, 2010

When Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová starred in the miraculous 2007 movie Once, most who saw it said it was a great love story. A few, wiser, people saw it for what it really was: a great story about how an album gets made. These actors were musicians after all. So rather than become big movie stars after the stunning victory at the Oscars for Best Song, the duo went back to what they really know - crafting folk pop (slightly melo-)drama but this time playing to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

In support of a new record, Strict Joy, the Swell Season came to Brooklyn to play to a hypnotized, but almost manic crowd. "Low Rising" from Strict Joy represented the best of where the Swell Season are going - soulful, deep seeded pop music. So no surprise when they later turned out Van the Man's "Into the Mystic", with a backing New York horn section. And they kept the orchestral machinations of the Once soundtrack to a minimum , focusing instead on electric and acoustic guitars, relying on one solid fiddle player for strings. And of course they shined strongest on the sparse acoustic torch songs, just the two of them on "Falling Slowly" (the way the song was meant to be played), and Glenn in particular on the almost over-the-top-it's-so-good "Say It To Me Now".

Meanwhile, The Low Anthem just about stole the damn show. The Low Anthem are a band, and Oh My God, Charlie Darwin is a record, that personifies American roots without immediately summoning a particular brand of it. What's evoked is a creeky, wooden empty room in a house, about sundown, and a few candles or incandescent bulbs alight in a chandelier. The guitars, the horns, the keys, the saw, that amazing upright bass (with a solo for the books) - the ghosts of America, thoughtful and contemplative, lost. Something where Moby Dick, Andrew Jackson, the Civil War, and Leadbelly have a get together.

The Swell Season and the Low Anthem had a get together themselves by the end of the night, with Josh Ritter to boot, in a fitting rendition of the ol' "You Ain't Going Nowhere".

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At July 31, 2010 at 1:42:00 AM EDT, Blogger Gianluca said...

This reviewer sounds like a failed musician who has a vendetta against any band that has any commercial sucess. The Low Anthem stole the show? The crowd didn't even stand until The Swelling Season took the stage and brought the crowd to life. The Low Anthem didn't steal anything and probably got their biggest reaction when they joined the main band during the very last song.

At July 31, 2010 at 8:37:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Gianluca: I attended last night's concert and have no axe to grind.
Most of the crowd had never even heard of the Low Anthem and had few expectations. By the end of their set, the majority of those at the concert cheered wildly and many, like me, went home to learn more about this unique neo-roots band. I'd say thay just about stole the show.

At July 31, 2010 at 10:21:00 AM EDT, Blogger Gianluca said...

If you up where the seats were, then yes you not only got a good spot but were among those who cheered. If you further back amongst the hundreds sitting on the ground then no, there was no applause. It wasn't until The Swell Season took the stage that a lot of folks got up and got as close as they could to the stage. You can't even compare the overall applause. I'm sure there were folks that went home and further educated themselves on Low Anthem but steal the show? Not in the least bit.

At August 3, 2010 at 8:56:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree that the Low Anthem FAR from stole the show. I wan't familiar with the Low Anthem, and found them to be good, but a bit hard to figure out. Where they a folk band, a blues band, a rock band? I'm still not sure. Not saying they have to pigeon hole themselves to one genre or that they should, it was just hard for me to figure out their vibe. The Swell Season was amazing and completely surpassed my expectations. It was one of the best shows I have ever been to and I think most in the crowd were blown away by them as well. I agree, the Low Anthem, got cheers, but the paled in comparison to the Swell Season who brought down the house.


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