Gig Review: Music For Cities @ Manchester Cathedral – November 15

By Kevin Benson

Manchester Cathedral provided a grandiose setting for a congregation of music lovers to come together and enjoy an evening of fine entertainment while raising money for the cities deprived youth.

The stunning interior of the church was enhanced by the beautifully lit stage, a deep purple light coating the rood screen, above which were perched the 16-piece choir, put together by Choral Director Greg Batsleer.

The audience was nestled neatly in the nave, surrounded by the rows of ancient columns that support the massive structure. It is easy to see why these buildings did have (and still do have) such an embodiment of power over people.

If there was one band whose music was more fitting for the occasion, it was Puressence. Their cult following has been loyally supporting them since 1992, yet commercial success has been limited to say the very least.

It’s hard to fathom why, their atmospheric and haunting style worked brilliantly within this setting. The wistful vocals of James Mudriczk on fan favourite ‘All I Want’ blended beautifully with the choir and the acoustics of the building ensured a harmonious sound.

Peter Hook and The Light were next up on stage , emerging amid a raucous cheer from the now-swelling crowd.

Not a word was spoken by Hook until the band had thundered through Joy Division’s ‘Shadowplay’, ‘Digital’ and ‘Disorder’.

Hook’s role as frontman is questionable though – while he is as energetic as ever, his vocals don’t do the songs justice, not in the way Ian Curtis’ did anyway.

Nonetheless, the set was a joy to watch. ‘Isolation’ heightened the party atmosphere, while ‘Transmission’ led to a wave of chants from the audience as Hook belted out the lyrics ‘dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio’.

‘Ceremony’, originally written right at the very end of Joy Divisions tenure, but featuring on New Order’s debut album ‘Movement’, also got a shoe-in, much to the delight of the adoring crowd.

Rounding off the set were the classics ‘She’s Lost Control’ featuring former Happy Mondays backing vocalist Rowetta and the timeless Joy Division hit ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. These songs, coupled with the choir made for a befitting grand finale to the set.

Finally it was the turn of a supergroup made up of The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess and Mark Collins,  Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy and a string section handpicked from the Chethams School of Music.

Unfortunately it wasn’t quite the end to the evening many had expected. It was a sombre finale to the evening.

The energy built up by the previous act had largely petered away during this set, with the mutterings of the audience more noticeable during this acoustically driven set.

The musical arrangements put together by local composer Joe Duddell were easy on the ears, but it felt as though by the gigs end that many in the audience were disinterested. The set also ran past the curfew of 11pm causing some grief among the audience, though in a display of true showmanship the band continued their set through to the end.

At the end of the day, the gig was not about people getting drunk and enjoying themselves, it was about raising money for those less fortunate, a point which was reiterated many times throughout the night by the bands and organisers.

To some it may have seemed unfitting to stage a concert in a venue such as this, built for the purpose of religious worship.

Yet for the people of Manchester, music is a religion and here to spread a message of giving to a worthy cause were a collective of some of the finest musicians this city has produced.

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