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Concert review: The Lower Lights at Salt Lake Masonic Temple

by on December 13, 2012

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Only the Grinchiest Scrooge could go to one of The Lower Lights’ Christmas concerts and walk away still lacking in the holiday spirit.

Wednesday night, the rootsy collective delivered an excellent array of traditional carols and subtle surprises during the first of its two sold-out shows at the Salt Lake Masonic Temple. The good vibes are readily apparent onstage among the musicians and singers who are taking time away from their own respective artistic pursuits to be part of the special blend that is The Lower Lights, and those good vibes traveled easily to the audience filling one of the more unique venues in Salt Lake City.

A few members of the group led a singalong of a couple of faves while the lights were still on—a good move in getting the kids in the audience involved. Then the full group took the stage for the “proper” show, starting with a rousing version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” one of the featured songs on The Lower Lights’ Christmas album released a year ago, Come Let Us Adore Him.

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Paul Jacobsen and Dominic Moore led the way on vocals on that song, and they were a part of an excellent array of singers who at various points took center stage. On “Away in a Manger,” it was Mindy Gledhill taking command of the proceedings. On “White Christmas,” Sarah Sample’s supple vocals proved incredibly pleasing.

“Silver Bells,” a highlight both last year and last night, joined Sample with Debra Fotheringham, Ryan Tanner and Dustin Christensen in a sparse arrangement that truly showcased their collective vocal prowess.

The singers weren’t the only ones to shine, though; Dylan Schorer’s solo guitar instrumental take of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” let his incredible playing come through loud and clear—and his pedal-steel work all night helped root the proceedings in the twangy territory I can’t get enough of. Mark Smith’s rapid-fire mandolin, Scott Wiley’s chiming guitar parts, Pat Campbell’s supple percussion and two-song guest Branden Campbell’s stint on both bass and guitar all were noteworthy (and I’m leaving out several other excellent performances—The Lower Lights is a big band, literally. Suffice to say, I didn’t hear anyone on stage “blowing clams,” as Mike Watt dubs his screw-ups).

Among the fun asides to the traditional tunes were a couple of Hank Williams favorites in “I Saw The Light” and “House of Gold,” which Tanner introduced with a fine reminder of the true spirit of the season—and it ain’t simply gettin’ more stuff.

There’s another Lower Lights show Thursday night, but your only chance for tickets is finding a friend with an extra. And you might want to go ahead and ask Santa for some tickets for 2013 right now, considering the band packed the Masonic Temple once last year, and two times this year. Third time around, it won’t be shocking if they pull off a triple-header next year.

2 Comments
  1. Glen Warchol permalink

    Dan, I did notice that the women were under-miked which robbed a couple numbers (Silver Bells) of their excruciatingly beautiful voices.

    Also, the crowd was somewhat dudlike–perhaps more wassail?

    • Sean Neves permalink

      Glen, I agree that the vox where really quiet. I though the crowd took a bit to get going. Great show though.

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