Reviews > Shows
The Low Anthem, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY 6/15/09
The Low Anthem, comprised of Ben Miller, Jeff Prystowsky and Jocie Adams came onstage at the Bowery Ballroom looking a little surprised. Fresh off a two-show gig at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, they might have not expected their CD release show to generate a large audience. Miller even brought his leftover dumplings as an enticing snack to draw people closer to the stage but fortunately, the room was full of fans ready and willing to stand near (and far) for the performance.
With Miller on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Prystowsky on pump organ and Adams on crotales (a percussion instrument consisting of small, tuned bronze or brass disks), the hour-long set began with “Cage the Songbird,” a ballad which quickly quieted the room. Throughout the night, the three multi-talented musicians switched between guitars, drums and a pump organ, while also touting an electric bass, an upright bass, a harmonium, crotales, clarinet, alto horn, cello, violin and harmonicas. On top of the menagerie of instruments, all three lent warm vocals to each song.
The pacing and thoughtful lyrics of The Low Anthem portrayed the influence of old folk and rock greats like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Arlo Guthrie. This gave the trio an uncanny and rare ability to captivate the audience with little more than three instruments, vocal harmonies and lyrics that seemed too mature to have been written by recent college grads. Lyrics of despair and longing on “This God Damn House,” played early in the evening, spoke sadly about “having a tough time living with somebody.”
The set, supplemented by a variety of covers, included original songs both old and new. A riveting bass solo courtesy of Prystowsky opened the gospel traditional “Don’t Let Nobody” that featured Miller on drums and vocals and Adams on the electric guitar. The band then ripped through the Jack Kerouac/Tom Waits collaboration “Home I’ll Never Be,” (featured on the new album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin), before slowing down for originals “Ticket Taker” and “The Ballad of the Broken Bones.”
A folk-rockin’ song about “cigarettes and whiskey and wild, wild, women” (aptly titled “Cigarettes and Whiskey”) ended the set in a light-hearted, upbeat fashion. Much to the crowd’s delight, the trio was quick to return to the stage for a two-song encore. An old folk standard that the band “loves more than we know how to play” took a minute to settle in, but soon rang true and struck the ears of the audience. The two opening acts and other friends of the band were brought onstage for vocal accompaniment on the new album’s title track “Charlie Darwin” before a group bow ushered the evening to a close.
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