Low are back once again in the majestic surrounding of Manchester Cathedral to promote their latest album, Double Negative. It is an album which has divided their loyal fan base due to the songs within being immersed in layers of static noise, drones and pulsating beats, which at times threaten to drown out Low’s subtle beauty and charm. Low could never be accused of being easy-listening, however for some, albeit a minority, Double Negative’s reception has been akin to the negative responses Lou Reed encountered on the release of his Heavy Metal Machine album of sonic feedback and squall. For me it’s an album which warrants repeated listens as a whole to release the hidden beauty within.

Prior to Low we have the good fortune to have the amazing Kathryn Joseph and yes I’ve set out my stall, Kathryn is AWESOME! Her voice uniquely channels her songs filled with love, longing and the wilds of the Scottish environment. I would equate her to a Celtic Kate Bush type storyteller as Kathryn charms the audience whilst playing songs from her second album From When I Wake The Want Is, including the album’s title song ‘From When I Wake’ and the single ‘Tell My Lover’, with its windswept rising piano forte and deft muted rhythms. It’s no wonder that the crowd respond warmly and rightly so leaving her to thank them for making this “witch” very happy.

Low begin with Double Negative album opener ‘Quorum’ and its static noise intro leading to Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parkers vocals entwining to intone ‘what are you waiting for’ before seguing into previous album One and Sixes highlight ‘No Comprende’. There then follows ‘Plastic Cup’ where Sparhawk self-deprecatingly scolds himself for forgetting a line after spotting a Slow Reader’s Club t-shirt in the audience.

Manchester Cathedral is a fitting environment for Low, particularly when they unfurl the epic ‘Do You Know How to Waltz’ with its gentle opening slow burning distorted guitar rising to Sparhawk and Parker’s twin vocals pleading “One more dance, before they take away the light, one more spin around the line.” Its beauty has everyone entranced across the cathedral making time seem to almost stand still. What’s evident from the outset is the measured grace of Low, there is no rock histrionics on display, simply strong emotive song writing.

Low follow this with three songs from Double Negative, ‘Always Trying to Work It Out’, ‘Poor Sucker’, and ‘Dancing in Blood’. It’s intriguing to hear them live where Low’s instruments are more to the fore and I for one would love to hear these on a live album.

It’s a perfect balanced set from Low tonight with no song out of place and, with the exception of ‘Plastic Cup’s slight stumble, all expertly played. I’m also struck by bassist Steve Garrington’s nuanced guitar playing particularly on the Double Negative songs.

Low finish their set with the staccato distorted beats of ‘Disarray’ where again Sparhawk and Parker’s harmonies light up the room. Low encore with fan favourite ‘Murderer’: short and beautifully formed, it finishes the evening in style.

All three members of Low seem to be genuinely moved by the adoration shown by audience and Sparhawk leaves by saying, “When you see hope in things, people that inspire you, that hope you feel is actually coming for you. You have hope. If you can, reach out and help someone else find hope too…..” There is one thing for certain – Low has given everyone plenty of hope tonight!

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Jonathan Roby

Overgrown indie kid with a penchant for americana, psych and weird folk.