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Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Tue 10 Oct.
Finally, it feels like winter is on the back foot. The swinging doors at the rear of The Gov are open, and the gentle, warmish breeze ushers in a sense of spring, along with the second-hand smoke. In the 60 minutes that have transpired between doors opening and showtime, the place has filled to near-capacity. It’s time for Peter Hook & The Light.
Tonight, the crowd is getting all the Substance it can get. Hooky and his band are playing sets comprising songs from both the New Order and Joy Division compilations that go by that name. Over the course of the promised three hours, the audience will enjoy an immersive experience – reliving the sounds of these two classic, connected-but-very-different, Manchester bands.
Hook, the master of the low-slung bass, appears on stage in a black t-shirt and shorts. On come his mates. It’s the same line up as the last time the band appeared here, as part of The Fringe in 2015: Jack Bates (Hook’s son, also playing bass), David Potts (guitar), Andy Poole (keyboards) and Paul Kehoe (drums). Hook sings lead.
The first portion of the show presents a pretty close approximation of New Order’s 1987 album in all its glory. No prizes for guessing the songs that generate the most interest – Ceremony, Temptation, Blue Monday, Confusion and Bizarre Love Triangle all meet with audience approval but, in reality, the whole set goes down well. Although, maybe not with everyone. During Bizarre Love Triangle, Hook grows increasingly unhappy with the behaviour of an audience member, for reasons not immediately apparent to all. “Try not being a c*nt…” he urges, but it’s to no avail and ultimately the powers-that-be remove the offender from Hook’s eyeline. Apart from that mildly unfortunate but entertaining episode, Hook appears to be enjoying his evening. He jokes about the heat on stage and the good turnout, but doesn’t spend too much time talking. With so many songs to get out, it’s no wonder.
The band does an impressive job in recreating the classic New Order feel and, although Hook doesn’t sound much at all like Barney, the bulk of the audience is with him. As one would expect, there’s necessarily a fair bit of sampling and other augmentation going on. At one point in the evening punters can hear what sounds like a bassline while neither of the bassists are playing. C’est la vie; it’s all part of building impressive soundscapes in these modern times.
The New Order set finishes with 1963, and the boys in the band take a short and well-earned break.
Despite the fact that Joy Division came before New Order, their Substance compilation didn’t arrive until 1988. Perhaps that’s why we get the Joy Division set in the second stanza tonight. Or maybe it’s because Hook feels that it’s the Joy Division songs that people most want to hear. Either way. Despite that fact that Substance is a compilation album, it hangs together well, and tonight’s performance shows that this is also the case in a live environment, even after shuffling the songs and adding a few others.
Kehoe’s drums are nothing short of the real deal, and Potts’ guitar is faithful and brilliant, although it could be more prominently placed in the mix. Hook’s vocals are pretty much on the money.
“3, 5, 0, 1, 2, 5, Go!” Warsaw goes down well. Transmission and She’s Lost Control provide real where-were-you-when-you-first-heard-this moments. Novelty isn’t included, which is a shame, but it would be churlish to pick holes. These Days is another beauty, while Digital encourages some crowd singing.
The evening reaches its expected and wonderful climax with renditions of the heartbreakingly crushing Atmosphere and then, the big one, Love Will Tear Us Apart. There’s nowhere to go from there.
Amid the triumphant cheering, Hook removes his shirt, gives it to some lucky person, and exits.
This has been a pretty good effort all round. To place oneself in the shoes of two of the most respected and popular bands of recent history takes some balls, even if you were a member of said bands, and Hook (along with his cohorts) does a great job.
Regardless of which of the two original bands they prefer, the crowd appears to have been equally delighted with both sets from Peter Hook & The Light this evening. Exit with ears ringing.
by David Robinson
Photo courtesy David Robinson