Peter Hook & The Light – Easter Homecoming – Albert Hall, Manchester – 6th-8th April 2023
Very interesting these residency things. Multiple nights at a venue inevitably offer the chance to compare, maybe more so when the band plays the same set to a different audience in a different town. Is it just another night of the same or does the dynamic changes in any way? Many fans often do multiple nights (I have myself), follow a tour (I have myself) or even travel abroad (…I have myself) out of some sort of obligation or necessity. Strange thing fandom.
When the set changes wholesale each night – not just a few songs swapped around – that’s probably much more of interest. The challenge of delivering several albums’ worth of songs being played across Hooky’s homecoming is most admirable. The songs are in the bank having showcased numerous classic Joy Division and New Order sets in the past. No cherry picking either with a focus on the biggies and sweeping the, by comparison, lesser songs under the carpet.
It’s a challenge that The Light (Paul Duffy on bass, David Potts on guitar, drummer Paul Kehoe and keyboards/synths man Martin Rebelski) are up for and they get a respectful nod from their leader. Of course, the man everyone calls ‘Hooky’ (lots of shouts of “go on Hooky!!” and even an intro on night #1 from a civic dignitary who acknowledges his “genius” status) is greeted by lots of familiar faces in the crowd over the three nights.
Standing stage centre, music stand with his crib sheets to his left, much like a preacher, he fervently delivers his sermo; an image reinforced particularly with the backdrop of the huge organ pipes and stained glass windows. Preaching to the converted naturally. Over seventy songs are heard during the three nights, with 64 being ‘original’. You can guess some of the repeat offenders… We were at all three events, making mental notes, wallowing in nostalgia and celebrating what is undeniably a historic musical legacy of Manchester.
When it comes to comparing Unknown Pleasures and Movement, one is the confident high, the other the tentative steps of a phoenix from the ashes. Showing he means business, Hooky arrives onstage, stands before the bass rig (“Guitar hero” and “Salford Rules” daubed on the cabs) and takes time to roll up his sleeves. There’s a job to be done. “Here we go,” he says as the familiar No Love Lost rumbles out to provide the curtain riser to Unknown Pleasures.
Yes, we know that New Dawn Fades and Shadowplay rank up there, but tonight the star turn is a riveting Insight. The sheer power of the insistent riff that concludes the track takes it into psychedelic Space Rock territory, almost making the original seem strangely stark and lightweight. A case of what time does to a song and how the evolution continues. “I’m not afraid any-MORE-yah!” and not for the first or last time, the head is thrown back and Hooky is off ringing those trebly bass notes while the band crunch down on the intensity. Fearsome. And five songs into the residency, the bar has been raised. One which gets scaled with the ominous and apocalyptic take on I Remember Nothing.
A brief pause, literally enough for a toilet break and the Shergold is out. Immediately there’s a lighter feel as Movement kicks in; maybe it’s the extra treble pinging from the higher bass notes or the general tentative nature of the songs which Hook and The Light now fill with a dense passion. In hindsight, the Movement set is a meagre filling in a thick doorstop of a sandwich which is a shame as it’s beautifully executed. You had to be there. There’s just too much of a good thing on this opening night, and it allows for a catch of breath and a second wind, nay tornado that’s about to follow.
The encore is a JD/NO treasure chest – one more wafer thin mint – gorging on the delights of Atmosphere, Digital, Ceremony, Blue Monday, Love Will Tear Us Apart. Can anyone fail to be satisfied? For some lucky ones with the stamina to match, the two nights to come bode well.
“Here is a more equal footing”
It’s noted before we begher a note tonight how Pottsy has his best shirt on. Must be a special occasion…
Closer and Power Corruption & Lies. A strong pairing and although it’s not a competition, the feeling is that despite the strength of last night’s encore, this could potentially be the pick of the stand. Yes, Closer has the familiar and overwhelming vein of darkness pulsing through its veins but the sense of community and occasion provides a balance as the band deliver an inspirational reading.
Atrocity Exhibition remains a raw and chilling scene setter – the magnetism of the “this is the way, step inside” lines are fatal, but there’s a real bounce and a privilege to be in the pit while the band literally bop through Isolation. Of course, everyone has their own opinion, but most in the room would scoff at the question as to whether there’s a more iconic bass player. These days, Hooky the bass player plays more of a second fiddle to Hooky the singer. There’s always a thrill when the ever-present instrument that balances and bounces on his right thigh comes into play or when he steps stage right, plants a foot on the monitor and raises the neck of the bass skyward.
Like its predecessor, Closer has its own moments of high significance. Heart And Soul may have entranced most, but the sheer lift of the outro of Decades was one of the handful of ‘woth the price of admission’ tags. Hooky leaves the final bars to the band – deservedly as they hit a groove that you don;t want to end, with aplomb.
Power, Corruption And Lies may well provide the most electronic diversions of the stand – the lush friendliness of the keyboard lines in Age Of Consent reminding us that a new era has dawned and instead of Bernard’s softer approach we get a more ballsy vocal that add a rawer counterpoint to any synth dominance. With Closer as a warm up, PC&L is more a chilled warm down. A good aprining for the balance of overbearing intensity and a lighter refresher.
“The final showdown. A young welterweight with punk roots against an established heavyweight with a wonderful pedigree”
The showdown between JD against NO on Substance.
For those who just came out on the Saturday night, for there were many packed into every nook and cranny of the building, those who’d been n the seasons ticket barely having room to swing their souvenir laminates and lanyards. They got a kind of ‘best of’ the residency. Call it ‘the hits’ if you will.
From the belligerent shout of “Three, five, zero, one, two, five go!” the masses unlike those down the road at The Bodyguard, all joining in with no repercussions or reprisals. It’s right that we’re back to Warsaw that kicks starts a JD set where the sharp punky edge carries through to Transmission (“this one’s for Tony“) and She’s Lost Control – no hardship having those in the set again. For tonight, LWTUA as it’s known ends a mighty first set. For once, observed from the gallery, we note how everyone rises in respect as if for the National Anthem. Perhaps, and let’s forget anything by Oasis, it should be the song of the city. Perhaps it already is. It’s been treated to choirs and orchestras but in a tight room with the audience virtually all around, it displays its deserved ‘anthemic song that changed music’ status.
It’s preceded by an Atmosphere dedicated to the memory of Nora, wife of good friend John Lydon and the spirit of the Lesser Free Trade Hall across the road when he was known by his other name and to add to the general melee, there’s nother chance to chant the “day in, day out” from Digital, reappearing from the first night’s encores. Yes, Hooky’s right with his “punk roots” comments as there’s a professional roughness in the versions of these songs.
With a Ceremony that bridges the two worlds, there’s an emotional opening to the final set. Drawn forever to the poignancy of the Ian Curtis version on Still, the Hooky 23 version is a celebration and with an early appearance for Blue Monday, the momentum is carried up to a finale of True Faith where for those whose eyesight might be on the wane, a squint/glance at stage left sees Pottsy even briefly morph into Bernard…
Temptation, celebration, isolation and resurrection. There’s nothing to regret, it’s been a truly marvellous residency in a fitting venue and a fitting time of year. Anyone who’s about to pick up on some of the upcoming 2023 dates with the NO/Unknown Pleasure/Closer sets has a treat in store. Manchester though, hit the jackpot.
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Categories: Live Reviews
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