Tonight’s line-up in the celestial surrounds of Manchester Cathedral would have been on my fantasy gig list as a student in the early 2000s. The crowd tonight reflects that age range – seasoned indie brooders making a twilight trip outdoors for what is an unusually long set in a slightly cold, entirely standing venue –  evidently Low is held in high regard by the indie glitterati.

It’s good to see supporting act Two Gallants return to Manchester. The San Francisco-founded two-piece’s 13-year history has included a sporadic tour and release schedule, making them worth catching when they’re in town. A few songs into their set and the most noticeable thing is how much their sound has altered since their debut album The Throes, with its country-tinged, sun-drenched, strumming-on-the-back-porch vibe. Not to say that Two Gallants have ever been categorically ‘country’ or ‘blues’ (one of their earliest and strongest tracks ‘Nothing to You’ epitomises their flirtation with mixing assertive, rocky drumbeats with laid-back tempos), but it does seem something of a departure from their more relaxed and arguably accessible sound.

One of the most appealing things about Two Gallants is their lyrics, but tonight in the echo of the Cathedral these are largely lost as the heavy rock riffs the duo has gone for in more recent material dominate. Two Gallants do, however, show themselves to be accomplished musicians and have an engaging onstage presence.

When Low kick off their unusually long set, the cathedral’s only flaw as a gig venue becomes apparent as crowds have to manoeuvre to fit around the restrictive stone pillars. It’s a good thing that the band’s selling point is not on-stage visuals and theatrics, but their slow-paced carefully-built soundscapes.

The vacuous acoustics of the cathedral complement them perfectly as the set begins with the low percussive thud of ‘Gentle’, the opening track of their new album. Things continue in this more recent vein with newer material from ‘Ones and Sixes’, including ‘No Comprende’, ‘The Innocents’ and ‘Landslide’ meandering around the arches and gargoyles.

As a band, Low has always revolved around its founding members, married duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker and it has often been said that their harmonies and synergy are what hold the band together. In a live setting, this assertion rings true – it’s hard to imagine how the long-play quality of their purposefully repetitious riffs and Parker’s snails’-pace percussion would hold up without the glue of their startling harmonies and minimalist but rousing lyrics.

Low’s set list seems to cut out the entire first half of the band’s career, starting somewhere around 2002 with material from ‘The Invisible Way’ and a couple of tracks from 2005’s ‘The Great Destroyer’ also featuring – ‘Monkey’, ‘Pissing’ and closing track ‘When I Go Deaf’, which inspires the closest thing possible to a Low singalong. This may not go down well with more steadfast fans but shows Low’s propensity to move forward without straying too from their purposefully understated sound.

In a time of social media and digital dominance, Low have retained an air of mystery about who they are as people, their motivations and their inspiration – something I thought would wane a little after seeing them onstage.

Coming away from the Cathedral however, I feel none the wiser. But after a set of such poignancy achieved through showing-not-telling, almost abstract methods, a little mystery seems to have worked in Low’s favour and has rightfully allowed their music take centre stage.

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