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MUSIC FOR CITIES: JAKE EVANS/ SIVERT HOYEM/ PURESSENCE/ PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT/ TIM BURGESS & GUESTS @ MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL 15/11/12 - REVIEW BY PHIL KING

 
Sometimes it’s not the act but the purpose behind the act that’s important. And tonight, some of Manchester’s finest artists have gathered for the purpose of promoting 'Music For Cities', an organisation which aims to use music to inspire and impact on the young people who find themselves in some of the most deprived inner-city communities. Its a worthy cause and heartening to see some big names rally round to offer their services for the first Music For cities event, held in the Gothic grandeur of Manchester Cathedral.

Jake Evans is the first artist to start the proceedings - the guitarist/ singer from Bad Lieutenant treats the crowd to four beautifully crafted songs that benefit greatly from the addition of a strings section, expertly played by students from the nearby Chetham’s School of Music. In fact most of the bands that play tonight have their music given an extra dimension through the addition of either classical strings or a full throated angelic choir.

It should be said that Chetham’s is one of three charities working under the banner of Music For Cities tonight, the other two being Reclaim and the cleverly titled United Estates of Wythenshawe. All three have at their core a drive and desire to help young people glimpse a different and better future.

It’s a quick moving show and hot on the heels of Evans is Norwegian rock legend Sivert Høyem - perhaps best known as the vocalist of the defunct rock band Madrugada. Sivert now a solo artist who uses nothing more than his voice and an acoustic guitar to conjure up the darkest of atmosphere. Looking razor sharp in a dark suit and highly polished black boots, Hoyem’s songs meticulously twist and writhe in the half light and howl quietly and gently into the gloom of this historic venue. It’s a testament to Hoyem’s deft skills that he makes stories of death and darkness sound gloriously alive. 




 
One nice touch about this evening is that between the acts, as the roadies were busy setting up the stage for the next band along, the crowd were entertained by some new artists who were making their first tentative steps in the music industry. So in turn we had rapper Evo-Tom Duffy, AKA Shawe's Diamonds, vocal/rap trio Reverb Collective, and last but not least soul singer Alieh Tassi entertaining us in their own inimitable way. And it was cool to see these young people display their considerable talents, which made a nice contrast to the more established bands on the bill. 

Following Silvert Hoyem’s well received set come the first of the evening’s big boys, Puressence, whose music soars up into the rafters almost from the word go. It’s really difficult to understand why this band isn’t up there with the U2s of this world when they produce music as fine as this. For two songs the band’s music is embellished with a choral arraignment that compliments the songs perfectly. The only criticism of Puressence’s set tonight was that it was far too short.

 

No matter what side of the argument you stand on regarding Peter Hook & The Light's notorious use of Joy Division’s music, you can’t deny that his band, The Light, have become a force to be reckoned with. As one of the original architects of the Joy Division sound, Hooky and the Light treat the songs they play tonight with respect and reverence, and even manage on occasion to resurrect ghosts of familiar faces to loom forlornly from out of the past. The music dovetails perfectly into the wide open spaces of Manchester Cathedral, especially the desperately unhappy ‘Atmosphere’ which drifts along on a bedrock of spectral voices with a 16 piece choir specially put together for the event by Gregory Batsleer, with the arrangements written and conducted by Alex Baranowski Music. Better still the gruff exuberance of ‘Isolation’ where precise synthetics wrestle with the bone shaking bass guitars and skittering drums which struggles to contain itself. As is usual, the very lovely Rowetta Manchester makes an appearance, swathed in red, introduced onto the stage by Hooky, as "the beautiful Rowetta". Rowetta breathes her own brand of soul into a song or two, raising the intensity of the performance to its highest level. The set is short by conventional standards but that doesn’t diminish its potency.  

 

All that’s left after The Lights radiant performance is for another son of Manchester, ex-Charlatans man Tim Burgess, to bring the evening to its conclusion. It’s a beautiful introspective groove that rarely moves at a pace beyond a canter, which, if you want the truth, perfectly suits the angelic Burgess's hushed vocals. A string quartet from Chethams School of Music arranged by Joe Duddell, adds subtle dashes of colour to the music and ekes out any nuances hiding at the core of the music.

And at the stroke of eleven o’clock that’s it; the stage lights diminish, and the shutters come down on a lovely evening of music that’s been played in aid of a good cause. In these times of austerity it’s nice to know that there are still people who are moved enough to help those who for whatever reason find themselves in an unfortunate position. Music For Cities has a good and proper purpose, please support it however you can. 

Review by Phil King
Photos by Melanie Smith - www.mudkissphotography.co.uk
Full set can be found here: