Team GDW have learned of many new artists over the last year, some truly ‘new’, and others quite firmly established.  We have been incredibly fortunate to experience some of these artists live in concert during this time, and as any regular reader of this blog can attest to, long-time Toronto folk-rocker Ron Hawkins has become a big favorite of ours.  We first encountered Ron with his band “The Do Good Assassins” last September, and have returned twice to see two additional solo performances from this artist since.  After our initial immersion to his music last year, we promptly sought out some of his back catalog, and in doing so, became exposed to his work with The Lowest of the Low.

Earlier this year, Ron Hawkins was kind enough to conduct an interview with Great Dark Wonder shortly after his cross-Canada winter tour with Blue Rodeo.  It was during the close of this interview that Ron alluded to the fact that the disbanded Low had reformed and were already in the studio working on a new album scheduled for a late summer release.  Making this the topic of a brief discussion between Ron and ourselves at a solo show last April, Ron kindly offered a follow up interview to focus on the new album, and would later announce that a Lowest of the Low concert would take place at The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto to coincide with the album launch.  Given the 13-year timespan since The Low last put out an album, Team GDW secured tickets for the event and eagerly awaited this show all summer long.  With the release of “Do The Right Now” last Friday in Canada, Team GDW arrived in Toronto on a glorious Saturday afternoon to experience the all-new Lowest of the Low live in concert.

Opening the festivities with a lively nine-track set list, we once again had the opportunity to enjoy another local artist, Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs.  Having seen Sam very recently in a solo setting, we welcomed the chance to see him perform with his band (well, not quite his full band, but was accompanied by bassist Aaron Coneau and drummer Kyle Sullivan).  And Sam Cash did not disappoint, offering tracks from all three albums, and adding some new material into the mix too.  The tempo was just right for this room and its rapidly growing crowd; upbeat, melodic, and some nifty skills on show from all three musicians (we saw you working that bass in style, Aaron).  With the typical 35 minute window to warm up the crowd, Sam Cash did not miss a beat and delivered an amazing set that certainly had us craving much more music from this band, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs Set List:

  1. Driveway Moment
  2. That Was The Summer
  3. Remedy
  4. Nothing At All (New)
  5. ***Title Unknown***
  6. Love You Through Worse (Unreleased)
  7. Silly Things You Do
  8. Teenage Hunger
  9. I Could Talk…

 

After a brief intermission, The Lowest of the Low made their way onto the stage and were greeted by a loud and proud packed out music hall.  Long-time band members Ron Hawkins (lead vocals, guitar), David Alexander (drums) and Lawrence Nichols (vocals, harmonica, keyboards) were accompanied by newcomers Derrick Brady (bass guitar) and Michael McKenzie (lead guitar).  Launching immediately into the first new single “Powerlines,” The Low would delight everybody with a great mix of both old and new material during their 90 minute set.  With twelve new tracks to choose from the “Do The Right Now” album,” seven would be incorporated into the set to firmly cement the claim that The Low are indeed back in the spotlight.

The amazing thing about the new material is that is does not ‘sound’ like new material; these songs bleed ‘Low’ throughout.  The influences from their origins remain obvious, as does their determination to simply do their own thing.  Remaining true to both his musical and social-philanthropist roots, nobody can accuse Ron Hawkins of compromising his integrity in order to sell more records.  With this firm commitment to their true ‘indie’ sound, The Low once again seek to debunk any myth that commercial success within the music industry is almost impossible if you are unwilling to conform to the demands of a mainstream-centered focus.

Mainstream or not, the lively crowd at The Danforth were not only here to catch up on the latest happenings (“Do The Right Now’), but to revisit with old friends from decades past (“Hallucigenia” and “Shakespeare My Butt”).  And of course, The Low gave each and every person in the room that proverbial trip down memory lane.  New tracks were neatly woven into the set-list throughout the night, with only “Something To Believe In” (ironically, an ‘old’ new song, as it was available for “Shakespeare My Butt”) and “Infinite” played in succession.  Hawkins added two tracks from Hallucigenia (“Gamble,” and “City Of Cowards”), and even asked the crowd if anybody owned a copy of their lesser known 2004 “Sordid Fiction” release.  With a well-timed response of ‘Liars’ by Hawkins for those who confessed ownership, The Low performed just one track from this album, “The Last Recidivist.”

Naturally, “Shakespeare My Butt” shared most of the attention, with both the tracks one would expect to hear (“Kinda The Lonely One,”, “Salesmen Cheats And Liars,” and “Rosy And Grey”), to the unexpected (“Letter From Bilbao,” “Just About The Only Blues,” and “So Long Bernie”).  Having already heard Ron perform the new track “Immortal,” earlier this year, it was fantastic to experience backed up by the full band.  “California Gothic” was another new track performed on this night, which for me is one of the standout pieces from the new album (“Sister Jude” would be another, although this did not make the set list).  With a non-stop 17-song set, plus two encore performances, The Lowest of the Low fed off the energy in the room all night, and did not take their feet off the gas pedal for all 22 tracks that were shared with the audience.  The completely unexpected addition of “Bit” to this list made for great listening pleasure, and had me rooting through my CD collection to dig out and hear this track again upon our return home.

While no music fan should have to wait thirteen years for a favorite band to put out a new album, for The Lowest of the Low, such rules need not apply.  The reformation of this band was well worth the wait.  The new album has all the ingredients for success, and was well worth the wait.  Having the opportunity to catch The Low live in concert to promote this album was well worth the wait.  Hoping to catch this band live once more…this time, we cannot wait!  With fresh tour dates being added, The Low are taking their show across Canada and beyond.  After this amazing evening at The Danforth, I urge you to get out there and experience this amazing reincarnation for yourselves.  The Low are back, and have the potential to be better than ever!

Shortly before this article was ready to be published, we received a wonderful short statement from Ron Hawkins, who summed up perfectly just what this show (and the positive response) meant to him on a personal level:  “Playing that show felt like the culmination of 30 years of being a musician.  I was proud of my band, confident in myself and felt blessed to be joined by an enormous tribe of like-minded folks singing along to every word!”  Thank you again Ron Hawkins, and The Lowest of the Low, for blessing your fans both new and old with this wonderful new material, and for taking us on an unforgettable journey with you at The Danforth Music Hall.

 

Lowest of the Low Set List:

  1. Powerlines
  2. Kinda The Lonely One
  3. Hand Of Magdelena
  4. A Letter From Bilbao
  5. Gerona Train
  6. Gamble
  7. Do The Right Now
  8. Salesman, Cheats And Liars
  9. So Long Bernie
  10. City Of Cowards
  11. Immortal
  12. Just About The Only Blues
  13. Something To Believe In
  14. Infinite
  15. The Last Recidivist
  16. Gossip Talkin’ Blues
  17. Eternal Fatalist

Encore:

  1. Subversive
  2. California Gothic
  3. Bit
  4. Bleed A Little While Tonight

Final Encore:

  1. Rosy And Grey

~ M