“Do Setlists And Gigs Get Any Better Than This? Not A Chance.”
Following full performances of “Unknown Pleasures”, “Movement”, “Closer” and “Power, Corruption and Lies” for Peter Hook and The Lights Easter Homecoming residency its “Substance” in its entirety tonight. “Ceremony”, “Atmosphere”, “Temptation”, “The Perfect Kiss” and “Love will tear us apart” are songs which have soundtracked my life over the last 40 years. A collection of some of the best songs ever recorded and from two of the most important British bands of the last 50 years. It’s going to be epic and emotional. Do setlists and gigs have the potential to be this special and memorable? I doubt it.
There’s not a more apt music venue for tonight’s sold-out gig than Manchester’s’ Albert Hall. The former Wesleyan chapel is situated just two hundred yards from what was the Lesser Free Trade where inspired by a Sex Pistols gig a couple of friends decided to form a band…… A gig that changed the Manchester music landscape and without which tonight’s headliner simply wouldn’t have existed. I struggle to make my way through the already full crowd. A mixed crowd of “Unknown Pleasures” t-shirts and fans brought up on “Technique” and “Power Corruption and Lies”
There’s an eerie quiet as the stage lights fade as “Three, five, zero, one, two, five go!” is yelled. “Warsaw” fizzles with claustrophobia, its icy, rapid-fire drums and tight, stifled guitar offset by stony unspoiled vocals. Its authority shudders around the walls and the crowd begin to move behind me. “She’s Lost Control” is frantic, the drums are intense, the bass swaggering at the edge of the stage. The stuttering guitar of “Digital” is unadorned, the vocals haunting and naturally reminiscent of Ian Curtis, the crowd cheering and clapping above their heads. The raw energy has the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.
An unmistakable thundering bass introduces “Transmission” (dedicated to Tony Wilson) and the crowd sing “Dance, dance, dance to the radio” as they jump up and down, the song blowing them a few feet further back from the stage. Peter is sharing bass duties tonight, both bass players regularly trading bass runs. Peter moves dynamically, angrily pointing and stabbing the air to reinforce lyrics. “Dead Souls” is dedicated to Ian before the menacing passion of “Atmosphere” (dedicated to John Lydon’s wife Nora Foster) provides one of the many awe-inspiring moments of the night. As the strings cascade people around me are singing or stood open mouthed.
No matter how brilliant Joy Division’s greatness they could arguably be defined by one song. Its title engraved on a Macclesfield Cemetery memorial stone, a song I’ve played regularly for over 40 years. The whole crowd push forward and everybody and I mean everybody is stood up hands stabbing the air singing the anthemic words “Love will tear us apart” at the top of their voices. It’s still the best performance and emotional reaction I’ve ever seen at a gig and without doubt should be the anthem of Manchester.
“Ceremony” opens the second half. It’s driving two-note bassline, nattering cymbals and slanted chords linking Joy Division to New Order perfectly. A song entrenched in the memory of Ian, Peter prowls the stage playing in his iconic stance as the centre of the crowd jump and stab their hands in the air singing “Oh, I’ll break them down, no mercy shown, Heaven knows it’s got to be this time”in the blinding rays of light. I turn around and the crowd is heaving, moving, but spellbound.
In football terms, tonight’s gig is a game of two halves. The raw, innocent Joy Division tracks leading to the atmospheric layers of synth and beautiful arpeggiating sequencers, hauntingly melodic bass and metronomic drumming of New Order. Peter’s expression is one of a performer truly in his element. Having the extra bassist allows him to dynamically move around the stage during “Temptation”. The songs combination of soaring gossiping keyboard, tangled bass and gracefully falling guitars has the crowd bouncing and singing along to “Up, down, turn around, please don’t let me hit the ground” and “Oh, it’s the last time” before it soars to its closure.
“The Perfect Kiss”, “Thieves Like Us”, “True Faith” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” are awe inspiring. Peter is controlled between songs, choosing to crash into the next track rather than produce small talk, the crowd cheering and clapping above their heads. David Potts on guitar tonight, provides exceptional vocals truly reminiscent of Bernard. “Regret” has the crowd bouncing and singing “I would like a place I could call my own, have a conversation on the telephone”and “Vanishing Point” is a surprise, added the setlist at the last minute.
As the night ends, Peter looks truly emotional during “Crystal”. Arm raised in the air, lost in thought, tears in his eyes. Memories of the lost friends perhaps. He holds his bass guitar in the air throws his shirt into the crowd and the band are gone. It’s an astounding, astounding gig. Powerful, emotional and played perfectly by a band at the top of their game. A gig showcasing songs that are unquestionably timeless milestones in music. Do setlists and gigs get any better than this? Not a chance. Don’t Walk Away In Silence.
2/ Leaders of Men
6/ She’s Lost Control
8/ Dead Souls
10/ Love Will Tear Us Apart
12/ Everything’s Gone Green
14/ Blue Monday
16/ Thieves Like Us
17/ The Perfect Kiss
20/ State of the Nation
21/ Bizarre Love Triangle
22/ True Faith
23/ Vanishing Point
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I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)