Alan Sparhawk is best known as the singer and guitarist for Low, a band that plays most of its songs at a slow tempo and hushed volume level, to strangely mesmerizing effect. Low turns up the sound once in a while, but Sparhawk plays just about everything loud with his other band, Retribution Gospel Choir. The “choir” has a new album out on the Sub Pop label, its second record, aptly if not so imaginatively titled 2. And Retribution Gospel Choir came to Chicago Friday night (Feb. 19) for a sold-out show at the Hideout.
This was quite different from a Low concert. Instead of that chilled-out meditative mood, the feeling was all-out rock show. Sparhawk grimaced and flung his hair around as he played one hard-rocking riff and guitar solo after another — and yet, that appealing voice of his still sounded familiar from those old Low records. Bassist Steve Garrington and drummer (plus backup singer) Eric Pollard kept the music moving forward all night.
Retribution Gospel Choir played a lot of the songs off its new album, which is a solid collection of catchy, dare we say, almost mainstream-sounding rock songs. There’s a bit of classic rock in the choir’s formula, but it’s played with such conviction that it never feels like cliché.