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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Low vs. Diamond shows its intense, melodic facets

At the Troubadour, Lucas Field leads the band in the kind of rock that could find a very big audience.

August 15, 2008|Ann Powers | Times Staff Writer

Lucas Field knows how to lock eyes with an audience. It's a frontman's skill; the best ones develop a gaze that seems to land on every person in the crowd, making some fans feel understood and others feel chosen. It can take years to gain the confidence to convince with this trick and the charisma to not make it seem hokey. But Field, who at 28 is just starting what might be a climb toward real rock stardom with his band, Low vs. Diamond, already has it down.

Wednesday at the Troubadour, the Los Angeles-based Low vs. Diamond played the kind of set that usually occurs in a much larger room or on a festival field. Field, who's prone to gestures that imitate the swoops and dips of his powerful voice, set the night's intense, celebratory mood. His four bandmates gladly went there with him. Each had his own moves, from the solid cool of guitarist Anthony Polcino to the jumpy, open-mouthed enthusiasm of bassist Jon Pancoast, and showed commitment to his stance without sacrificing musical precision.

Low vs. Diamond makes the kind of strong, satisfyingly melodic rock that rarely interests music snobs but can inspire devotion in less imperious folk. The comparisons are obvious: Coldplay, Travis, U2. It's the kind of sound that could find a very big audience or could fall by the wayside, overshadowed by others' flashier, more gimmicky efforts. But it deserves to be heard.

Field is an adventurous vocalist, putting his all into every line; if he masters his falsetto, he'll be great. His lyrics have a nice American earthiness that undercuts his poetic aspirations. He may be too prone toward moral pronouncements (with song titles such as "Actions Are Actions" and "Save Yourself"), but he's also interested in debauchery and in characters with blood under their nails.

Musically, Low vs. Diamond is working toward a similar balance between sweeping moves and gritty details.

Drummer Howie Diamond has a good punch, and keyboardist Tad Moore adds welcome nuances. At the Troubadour, these players and their mates threw off the athletic sparks that are a trademark of conventional rock, when musicians find themselves working as a team, hitting every mark they've set.

The band played every track from its fine self-titled Epic Records debut, in celebration of its release last month. Field was chatty with the crowd, relishing the hometown welcome. "You guys know we have one more song, so we're gonna go up there and wait while you clap, and then come back and play it," he said at the end of the set. So that's how encores work!

Low vs. Diamond is on a learning curve, and if Field sometimes shares a bit too much of his process, at this point the candor is endearing. After playing the melancholy "Annie" solo at Moore's keyboard, Field returned to center stage and apologized. "I should turn the piano toward you next time," he said. Is a rock star made by nature or nurture? In that moment, it seemed a bit of both.

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ann.powers@latimes.com

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