Low Duo, Dan Williamson and James Ewan Tait: Great Gatsby, Sheffield

I wonder how everyone is going to fit into the tiny function room above the Great Gatsby, but half of Low Duo and gig organiser, Leigh, has put the space to good use. A length of tube lighting marks out the stage area, speakers are on either side and fairy lights cover the back wall, contributing to the intimate atmosphere. This being the launchof Low Duo’s third EP, ‘The EP of Truth and Regret’, it’s fair to say they’re on a roll.

The room falls silent. There are two other reviewers perching against the wall, taking notes with stern poker faces. James Ewan Tait is forgiven for feeling like he is about to be thrown to the lions. Finally, he breaks the silence. Most of his songs are soft and sentimental. His vocals are low, but sometimes, waver into higher notes. Think, The Kooks vocalist, Luke Pritchard. ‘A Song For The Girl Who Hates The Beatles’ with its adolescent title fits the theme of inexperience as James elaborates, ‘This song is about the first time I had to break up with a girl.’ Though it has soft moments, there are bursts of strumming which give it more life. ‘Plasticine’ is much slower. Unfortunately, amongst the dim lighting, it is enough to put you to sleep. I soon wake with a jolt as James launches into an upbeat flurry of guitar and hurried vocals that is over before you can say, ‘You want another amaretto sour?’ Lightly plucking at strings with eyes closed, he opens his heart again with a song about the remains of a break up. The detailed remnants of the past such as the ‘fragmented shopping lists’ speak volumes as they add depth to the heartbreak. ‘Northern Rail’ is a twinkling reverie but by the time we reach, ‘A Portrait’, I feel we are drowning in self pity. Last song, ‘Jodie’ is similarly downbeat but is redeemed by angry vocals at the end.

 Dan Williamson appears to take up more of the stage with stronger guitar and rock vocals that demand the audience’s attention. I wonder if I have misheard the lyrics in his opening song, as he paints the scene for a fancy dress party, comparing his emotions to that of a panda’s. He continues to flex his raw vocals, repeating, ‘I Asked The Wrong Girl To Leave’, convincing me that he would do well in larger venues with a band behind him. ‘How To Howl’ emerged as the best pop song of the evening with developing melodies and a twangy bridge to boot. However, ‘A Kiss’ goes to show that Dan’s vocals are not as good at the softer stuff. It is not until, ‘Champions League Wednesday Nights’ that we can fully appreciate his heartfelt sincerity. This song, about his childhood relationship with his father, displays more tenderness than any love song could.

Leigh graciously thanks the previous acts and the audience which has significantly grown since the beginning on the night. A fresh wave of tension sweeps the room as Low Duo open with, ‘Fifteen Years’, a song from their first EP. This intense atmosphere is created by Adam, hunched over an acoustic guitar, delicately plucking and drumming the surface. This combined with Leigh’s high pitched vocals, is enough to hold the room for ransom. Intensely, he grabs the mic, always raising one polished shoe off the ground. Leigh explains, they are taking us on a journey. We visit a song from each EP. ‘Of All The Girls’ is from their second and ‘Ambulance’ from the third. Again, Adam displays impressive skills, tapping on guitar strings echoing the sound of footsteps. ‘Secret Matters Of The Heart’ mixes things up, as Adam swaps his guitar, for a bass.  Now on electric guitar, the band covers The Walkmen’s ‘The Rat’ full of effective reverb. Not ones to be greedy, Low Duo leave a piggy bank with their CDs so fans can donate what they like. They finish with ‘It Was You And Me’ maintaining a chilling vibe until the end.

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