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Manchester Academy, Manchester, UK
Friday, 7 February 2003

Review #1 | Review #2

When they played Manchester last time it was in the more intimate Hop N Grape venue upstairs in the main University building. This time, the show was in the larger MDH hall, now called the Academy Two. What an incredible gig. Low started with Candy Girl and played most of Trust and selections from Things We Lost In The Fire with the odd gem from Secret Name thrown in. Plus, they played Over The Ocean and a fantastic Laser Beam. Just staggeringly beautiful. Alan referred to the times they played the Star And Garter pub (old spit and sawdust place round the back of Piccadilly station) - "Those were the days!" and commented that Manchester is like the Detroit of England......"scary". I got to wondering how a band who do "nothing" on stage can be so rivitting to watch! Hoped they would do Transmission as they always have done in Manchester before but not this time.

Peter Bowers

"What album's that song off?" a man whispers to his friend. A lady in front swings round. Irate at having her beloved band interrupted, she hisses, "Do you mind?" I dare not move. The squelching of my shoes on the beer-sticky floor will doubtlessly rile somebody else into another act of extremely quiet verbal violence. It's fitting then that Low are an extreme band. They're so extremely slow and quiet that it makes the very concept of standing to watch seem nonsensical. We should be sat on cushions in an intimate circle nodding appreciatively towards the wise ones in the centre.

In doing something as simple and intimate as Low there's so much to lose. No effects pedals or cataclysmic drumming can ever disguise your musical failings or hide your insecurities. All fears, inconsistencies and dishonesty will stick out like Lady Godiva had she suddenly changed heart on the streets of Coventry. Few ever pull off such a deed but it's the sheer sincerity and almost religious purity that makes the almost inscrutable difference between Low and other "spiritual" melodrama.

Almost foetal renditions of "Sunflower" and "Laser Beam" replete with thick soul-wrenching harmonies lay bare the hearts of the Minnesota three on a slab for our sensitive, non-ghoulish (of course!) dissection. There are moments of earnest joviality between songs. Alan Sparhawk recalls disconcerting characters that he encountered at the Star and Garter on Low's first visit to Manchester and playfully (and thankfully) quashes requests for Joy Division cover "Transmission". "We're going to disappoint you and play something else", he quips before slinking into the hugely appreciated finale of "Closer". It's enough to remind us that through the moments of delicious darkness there's a positive, spirit-asserting missive.

David Himelfield

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