Low: Manchester Cathedral, Manchester



Been feeling low? Getintothis’ Joe Woodhouse reveals how you could have been lifted by Low’s emotional yet uplifting Manchester Cathedral gig.

Where better for Low (consisting of Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, and Steve Garrington) to play than at the Manchester Cathedral? The grand architecture captures the choir like quality Low often provides perfectly, and with the dark lighting, everything was set for a memorable and mood driven night.

The focus was on the new album, Ones and Sixes, which recently released to critical acclaim, and they play the majority of the album with a bundle of favourites scattered in between. It’s a mix every fan of Low can enjoy, and while they don’t step too far back into the past, going no further than the track Will The Night from 1999’s Secret Name album. They don’t really need to – why rely on the past when the present is so vibrant?

The material played from the new album highlights just how strong an album it is, with each track feeling like a personal friend despite how fresh they are to the crowds ears. What Part of Me is the closest Low have gotten to a pop number, and the beautiful No Comprende is understood by all. Already favourites have been developed, and there doesn’t seem to be a dominant track that everyone leans towards, and how many albums can you say that of?

Check out our Manchester Gigs of the Month for October

The new material is played without veering off into unknown directions, it’s still too fresh to be tinkered with just yet, but the old favourites have been retrofitted with classic Low drones which bring out the more radical sound of the band. Low are typically about beautiful minimalist sounds matched with the clear melancholy vocals of Sparhawk and Parker, but they can also typically go the other way. There is a harshness which undercuts the words, and when it strikes, you’re already caught in the drone.

The track Pissing exemplifies this other side of Low the best, with minutes of noise that led to Sparhawk pushing his face into the body of his guitar. It was an intensity often attributed to the likes of Thurston Moore, and for many, that barrage of sound could have gone on till the end. But as Alan said, there is a fine line, a fine line indeed.

The finale Landslide before the encore provided further soundscape drones, and smothered the crowd just as the title promised. It’s great to see the band still remain loyal to their roots, while at the same time pushing into new territories each time, with the particular change this time being the enhanced use of electronics.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the band pulled out Point of Disgust, which ditched the guitars and had Parker singing alongside a delicate piano piece. It was achingly beautiful, tragically sad, and the first time this writer had ever grown teary-eyed at a gig, thinking about many a time spent sat in the rain listening to this particular track contemplating it all while waiting for work to open. We’re sure there were others in the audience tears in my eyes, memories in my mind.

For with Low, everyone has a personal attachment to one of their songs, and when it came to the encore, the crowd cried out for their number one, and each call out was different from the last. But the decision of (That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace, and When I Go Deaf surely satisfied everyone. At least you’d imagine so as the crowd sung along, with each line meaning something to someone, nothing to no-one.

A blessed gig, and in the literal sense as the band revealed at the end. Take that as you will.