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.
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.