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PETER HOOK LIVE IN MANCHESTER
VISIT RGM

PETER HOOK AND THE LIGHT LIVE IN MANCHESTER – WHAT HAPPENED?

Your humble reviewer has seen Hooky a fair few times over far too many years, from supporting Buzzcocks as part of Joy Division at Manchester Apollo back in October 1979, through countless encounters with New Order, finally ending up in his current incarnation as Peter Hook and The Light as recently as January at Rockaway Beach on Bognor Regis in January. However, tonight was always going to be special, as the two albums to be played in their entirety are my two all-time personal favourites.

Unknown Pleasures has to be (in anybody’s book) one of the greatest albums ever produced, spawning countless imitators over the last four Decades (aaand we’re off – see what I did there?) and providing a framework for everyone from The Editors to Interpol, from The Murder Capital to IST IST. Unknown Pleasures was my 6th form go-to album of choice (having missed The Sex Pistols and The Clash by a whisker) and it was perfect as something that would be completely misunderstood by my parents (and boy, did they ever!)

The mutation into New Order with debut album Movement gave me my first band to really follow and feel part of, a band who made me queue up outside Piccadilly Records whenever they released something (sometimes it turned up on the release date, more often than not it didn’t, but somehow it didn’t matter), the band who made me wait in the snow for what felt like hours outside King George’s Hall in Blackburn, the band for whom I took my first speeding points on my way back from Bradford, the band for whom I waited until midnight to come on stage at Manchester Ritz in 1981. And through it all, Peter Hook has been a part of that journey, standing shyly with his back to us in the early days, taking his first hesitant vocal steps in the early New Order line-up, through to the bass slinging Viking rock god who saw me through the 80s and 90s. It is only fitting that tonight he proudly takes the legacies of both Joy Division AND New Order forward by playing these songs front and centre with love, care and respect.

To be able to see and hear BOTH these iconic albums performed at the same time in Manchester’s perfectly suited Albert Hall is going to be an absolute bucket list moment for me, so without further ado, this is the way, step inside (except that’s on tomorrow night’s setlist – still, you can’t have everything)

However, what you CAN have, is a fist bump with Hooky at quarter past seven whilst waiting outside the venue. There I am, on my phone with Hooky walking towards me down (appropriately) Peter Street. My mouth falls open stupidly and I yell to my other half, “It’s Hooky – he just fistbumped me!”, fanboying horrendously as he heads off to get ready, much to her amusement. In a Morgan Freeman voice, “Tonight is going to be a GOOD night.”

I scamper upstairs to the balcony in time to hear a glowing introduction by no less than the Deputy Mayor of Salford, finishing with – “Please welcome on stage – the legend that is Hooky!”. This leads nicely into the trademark intro of Kraftwerk’s “Trane Europe Express”, which in turn opens the evening’s proceedings with a nod to Joy Division’s early days in the shape of the pre-Hannett/Factory era “No Love Lost” from the 1977 “An Ideal for Living” EP.

Intriguingly, Unknown Pleasures didn’t have an A and a B side, rather an Outside and an Inside and it is with the first track from the Outside, “Disorder” that tonight’s main performance begins. Hooky’s baritone is the perfect vehicle to deliver Ian Curtis’s melancholy vocals and from the start, you know that he’s going to put his Heart and Soul (I’m NOT doing it on purpose, honestly) into these songs. However, as anyone who has seen them before will testify, this is WAY more than Peter Hook and a backing band – The Light has been a largely fixed unit since its formation in 2010, the main exception being a succession of  bass players filling in for Jack as he toured with The Smashing Pumpkins amongst others, although Hooky has cheerfully admitted that nobody can play these songs quite like Jack. The rest of the line-up are long standing guitarist and former Monaco collaborator David Potts on guitar/vocals, fellow Monaco stalwart Paul Kehoe on drums and electronic wizard Martin Rebelski on keyboards.

There’s little if any chat or banter between the songs, yet there any need – the crowd, which is interestingly split age-wise, demographic-wise need no introductions to these songs. There are many Unknown Pleasures and a smattering of Movement tees worn by folk of all ages and sexes, although, as you might imagine, there’s a definite bias towards, shall we say, gentlemen of a certain age (your Humble Reviewer included). “Day Of the Lords”, with it’s plaintive cry of “Where will it end?” is next. Thankfully, these songs which formed the backdrop to so many paths to adulthood  have been largely left unaltered, apart from a light dusting of keyboards that might have not featured on the originals, or a few additional riffs from Pottsy stage right. The songs are the legacy of someone who hasn’t been with us for a long time and there would be ructions if they were tinkered with TOO much.

“Candidate” and “Insight” follow in quick succession and it’s pleasing to note that, on the whole, people actually LISTEN, though to be fair, this isn’t an audience that has come to chatter about other stuff, as is all to often the case at gigs these days, a real bugbear of mine) This is an audience that wants to be in the moment and Hooky and his mates are only too pleased to provide that moment for them. Many voices joyfully echo back, “I remember when we were young”, ironic in that many hadn’t been born when either of the two albums featured tonight were released – thank heavens for parents with taste. New Dawn Fades draws the Outside to a mournful close – we all know the story, but it’s never any less poignant in the telling: “We’ll give you everything and more, the strain’s too much, can’t take much more – Oh, I’ve walked on water, run through fire, can’t seem to feel it anymore”. Rest easy, Ian.

The Inside kicks off with the heavier, U.S. single version of “She’s Lost Control” with Paul battering away at the drums as if his very life depends on it, leading into the bleak majesty that is Shadowplay. Try to hunt down the version of this from Granada TV with Tony Wilson’s iconic introduction and primitive overlaid video – it’s on YouTube and it’s rather special. Pottsy is given license to add just a BIT of guitar solo, but no more. “Wilderness” paints another bleak picture as plaintive shouts of “Come on, Hooky” ring out from different parts of the crowd. This man and his music are a link to the past for so many people and they love him for it.

Hooky in return struts around the stage, punching the air and brandishing his bass like a weapon. These are his people and he knows what they need. The heavy rock of “Interzone” raises the tempo – “I was looking for some friends of mine”, he howls. Well, he’s certainly found them tonight. This section of the night’s proceedings concludes with “I Remember Nothing” with it’s plaintive cry of “We were strangers” There are no strangers here tonight, just one very extended family.

The band leave the stage for 15 minutes of so, to prepare for Movement. New Order’s first album is all about beginnings – it’s about three friends trying to come to terms the loss of their muse and fourth wheel, wondering if they will carry on, CAN, carry on, SHOULD carry on. But it’s also an album that HAD to be completed, to allow them to gently lay the ghost of Joy Division to rest, in order to pave the way for their next incarnation. But you can hear those ghosts in this album and feel the gentle touch of Ian Curtis in some of the songs that were in embryonic form when he chose to leave us.

The second half of the set opens with “Procession”, a single that was released a couple of months before Movement, but which already showed New Order moving away from the Joy Division legacy. Movement opener “Dreams Never End” actually featured Hooky on lead vocals before the that role went elsewhere in New Order,and he does it justice here, much to the crowd’s delight. Next up is the drum machine driven and mournful robotik of “Truth” with Hooky bringing out the famous green melodica to deliver a simple but haunting melody.

The album proceeds majestically through “Senses”, “Chosen Time” and “ICB”, which is, according to Hooky a song that carried over from Joy Division days, as he recalls jamming with him on it. The first time we hear from Hooky in the night is when he glitches the intro to “The Him” by playing it in the wrong key. This raises a friendly cheer from the audience and a rueful laugh from the man. Even Viking Gods get it wrong sometimes. The Him is the first of Movement’s three closing tracks and it seems incredible that the night is already nearing its end: “Some days you waste your life away

These times I find no words to say” – however, tonight has definitely not been a waste and you can see it on the faces of so many of the audience – they turn to their companions, hug, smile, words unspoken. The pros hold back their applause at the song’s false ending, waiting instead for the end proper. They know.

“Doubts Even Here” is a cry of anguish from somewhere deep within, from its simple drum machine intro through Paul’s funereal pounding, Pottsy’s mournful guitar, Jack and Hooky’s insistent bass work and over it all, THAT voice. Here is a man who has created, lived and breathed these songs for the past forty odd years and it’s clear he loves them all like children, which in a sense they are.

“Denial” brings Movement to a close with its almost manic tribal drumming – it can’t be easy to maintain this tempo after two albums’ worth of playing, but Paul achieves this magnificently as Hooky howls through the blue light to the crowd who by now are moshing furiously at the front. Tonight has been a triumph as he punches the air to bring at least this part of tonight’s proceedings to a close. The ghosts have been exorcised for yet another time, and yet, they’re ghosts that none of us want or need exorcising – they’re part of our lives, just like they’re part of his.

However, it wouldn’t be a Hooky gig without the “Extras” – the singles that also come from the period in which the albums were released and tonight we are in for a treat. The band take to the stage and, having thanked his bandmates for their tireless efforts, as is sadly customary These Days, we have some goodbyes to say – one Jeff White from Texas who should have been here tonight, but who is sadly no longer with us, and also to John Lydon’s wife Nora who left us today – the crowd applaud both respectfully as the familiar bass riff of “Atmosphere” (one of, if not THE most beautiful of Joy Division’s songs) breaks out. The audience sing along as they’re “Aching to see, walking on air”. It’s a beautiful moment and you can’t fail to be moved, whatever your reasons.

Next comes perennial crowd pleaser “Digital” from the pre-UP Factory Sampler EP, marking the point in time where Martin Hannett first got his hands on the fledgling Joy Division and moulded their sound into the one we know and love. The crowd are hitting fever pitch by now, echoing the “Day In, Day Out” refrain back to their leader.

First single for Factory “Transmission” follows in short order, and by this point the crowd are in ecstasy as they join in and “Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio”. They know every lyric, every beat, every riff as if they’re part of their DNA, which in some way, they are. These are the songs of our youth and with every day that passes, they serve to remind us of our mortality for many reasons.

However, tonight is not a night to mourn, it’s a chance to celebrate, to grab life by the scruff of its neck and yell back that we most definitely WON’T go gentle. We’re almost at the end now, as the familiar refrain of “Heaven knows it’s got to be this time” from of “Ceremony” (the last song that was written with Ian Curtis and the first one that was recorded as New Order) drifts towards the Albert Hall’s ceiling.

A chap of roughly my age standing in front of me and my brother looks to his friend, gives him a hug, then looks back at me, his eyes wide open and a massive smile on his face. “Fcukin’ hell, will you just LISTEN to that?”, he says. I know. He knows, EVERYONE knows and Eddie’s face says everything that tonight is about. And it’s only fitting that Eddie gets a mention here, although tonight the crowd is FULL of Eddies, all of who love Hooky for who he is, what he does and for the torch that he continues to carry on our behalf.

As if we haven’t been spoilt enough, tonight’s set Closer (I KNO, OK?) is the magnificent “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, a song that meant as many things to its writer as it does to each of us. “Here we go, Manchester!” yells Hooky triumphantly and Manchester gives back everything it’s got, waving, clapping, punching the air joyously, happily and noisily, the absolute opposite of what you’re “supposed” to think Joy Division are all about. If there’s a more fitting note on which to end the night, then I don’t know what it is, as the sneaky final riff from “And then he kissed me” brings proceedings to a close.

It has been an absolute privilege to attend tonight’s show. We drift away elated and renewed. Thank you, Peter Hook and The Light for doing what you do and for keeping this music alive and as relevant now as it was when it was first created, both for those who remember it from the first time round, and for those who still learn of it today from others. Tonight, we haven’t been torn apart, we’ve been brought together again. Gawd bless you, Hooky.

Peter Hook and The Light played [No Love Lost] then Disorder, Day of The Lords, Candidate, Insight, New Dawn Fades, She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay, Wilderness, Interzone, I Remember Nothing (from Unknown Pleasures), [Procession] then Dreams Never End, Truth, Senses, Chosen Time, ICB, The Him, Doubts Even Here and Denial (from Movement) Atmosphere, Digital, Transmission, Ceremony and Love Will Tear Us Apart.

All things Peter Hook can be found here…https://peterhookandthelight.live

WORDS BY PETE ROONEY

📸 HELEN MILLINGTON

THE RGM PODCAST