The Low Anthem Oran Mor 7th April 2011

review by Pauline Keightley

Photo: the low anthem. I first saw The Low Anthem perform at the Old Fruitmarket during Celtic Connection Festival 2010. The band have a contemporary American country style and with their finely-tuned harmonies and assortment of instruments they are very entertaining Their sound ranges from soft subtle tunes to crashing walls of sound and the voice of Ben Miller, the lead singer, can be sweet or harsh depending on the song.

I expected another great concert at OranMor and I wasn't disappointed. The beautiful Auditorium made a great venue with its stained glass windows and highly decorated ceiling and gallery. The American band 'Heart to Heart' providing the support and they had a lot of fun performing their strong harmonies and high quality songs.

The Low Anthem followed with the stage set for intimacy with their instruments afrranged in a circle with an open area in the middle.?To further add to the relaxed ambience they had set a vase with two daffodils and a glass of wine on top of a small wooden organ.? The band began their set in a close circle around an old radio-style microphone and with only their soothing voices and guitar they brought a hush to the crowded hall.??

On their next song they added two clarinets and a tuba to the mix. They asked members of the audience to join in at the end of this number by calling friends on their mobile phones. This unusual gimick created an eerie prolonged echo throughout the hall.? Their first ten songs were gentle and mellow, after which we were more than ready for them to take the tempo up - which they did by playing three guitars, drums and electric bass to produce a big wall of sound.?

The Low Anthem played some well-known songs from their third album - 'Charlie Darwin,' 'The Ghosts Who Write History Books' and the crowd sang along enthusiastically to their song 'Way To Ohio' . Ben remarked that he thought he heard a 'Glasgow Emma-Lou Harris' in the third row!??

By mixing their instruments they were able to give each song a different texture - from mellow to harsh, vibrant to poignant - sometimes the texture of wood, sometimes full on brass. Some songs had singing saw, double bass, harmonica, fiddle and a small wooden organ pumped by foot pedals.? Other songs had a brassier sound with trumpet and tuba added. There were some unusual touches such as bowing the banjo. Their harmonies were close, intimate and often poignant, in contrast Ben Miller sang with a soaring, gripping high falsetto accompanied by his acoustic guitar.????

Their songs were full of movement and stories - a combination of haunting, meaningful and intelligent. Their music reflects a mix of several influences and it has fine strong melodies. The audience responded enthusiastically and the band was called back for an encore. when they sang 'Smart Flesh' from their new release.? Their voices sounded particularly pure as they sang 'Oh My God, Charlie Darwin' and there was a feeling of spirituality and renewal in the old church hall.

This low key American indie folk band are from Rhode Island. They consist of multi-instrumentalists Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky, Jocie Adams and Mat Davidson. The band gained attention for their third studio album, 'Oh my God Charlie Darwin' in 2009, and they released their fourth studio album 'Smart Flesh' in 2011.