Live Review: Peter Hook & The Light at Albert Hall, Manchester
Taking the stage for the third and final time for their Easter Homecoming, Peter Hook & The Light treated the lucky Manc crowd to a setlist of both Substance singles albums from Joy Division and New Order.
Date published: 11th Apr 2023
To say the ride from Joy Division’s start to New Order’s end has been a rocky one may be the understatement of the year. But we won’t bore you with the semantics of a tale that has been spun many a time, as the dust of untimely passings and internal conflicts has settled (albeit where the latter is concerned far apart from each other). But even after all of this, for fans in the modern day, it’s quite simply a delight to hear the iconic tracks created in the time of the two bands live in any capacity.
And, as far as the Peter Hook & The Light gig on the Saturday of the Easter weekend is concerned; boy was it delightful. The last night of a three-day bender at the illustrious, stained glass surrounds of Manchester'sAlbert Hall, each of which celebrating an album from both the bands Hooky supplied bass for. The first night saw Hooky and The Light, introduced by none other than the mayor of Manchester himself Mr Burnham, play in full both the classic Joy Divison record ‘Unkown Pleasures’ and the New Order record ‘Movement’. The second night saw them run through Joy Divisions’ ‘Closer’ and New Orders ‘Power, Corruption, and Lies’, and finally, Saturday saw the two bands' singles albums, both aptly named ‘Substance’ come to the stage, for a night that can only be described as a celebration.
A celebration of two bands so ingrained in the culture, sound, and ethos of a city, and a city coming together to show how these songs the love they deserve and memorialise them in the best way possible, by dancing and singing along to them in a beer-fuelled stupor.
Image: Peter Hook & The Light on Facebook
Yet, such support was not one relegated to those who were there to experience it the first time around. In fact, one of the most beautiful things on show at this gig was quite simply just how diversely aged the room was. From the ones whose dancing legs seized up a long time ago, rocking along from the seats in the Albert Halls balcony, the youthful floor (including those still youthful in mind although perhaps not in heart) interspersed with people who never saw Ian Curtis in the flesh, or Hooky and Sumner on stage together, but to whom the tunes mean just as much.
There was little time between entry and the show starting, given the sprawling nature of this three-part gig series put on by Hooky and co, with annuls different eras of the two bands, as the sets are close to two and a half hours long, with a small break in the middle and no support band. So it was a somewhat unique gig-going experience, but to be honest, there are few support bands that could’ve really risen to the occasion and channelled what these shows were truly about; Joy Division and New Order.
Image: Peter Hook & The Light on Facebook
As they took the stage, Peter Hook & The Light were treated to an almighty roar from the Manchester crowd; the majority of which had undoubtedly been out for a good part of the day enjoying the first taste of sun in 2023. He gave off the aura of a Salfordian Saint on stage, all eyes fixated on the strings of his bass, and everyone teeming with the anticipation of the first hits of ‘Warsaw.’
And when it came, this Joy Divison deep cut, though not as widely received as many of the tunes to come, saw the true goths in the room rise up in a moody sway. ‘Leaders Of Men’ and ‘Digital’ follow to similar aplomb, with the aforementioned Mancunian goths faithful in full idolisation of what they were witnessing.
Joy Division’s physical releases were acclaimed by many for their sparse but purposeful production, yet for years Hooky has openly been of the opinion that they struggled to capture the band's true live essence, an essence that was lauded for its immediacy and ferocity on stage. But, it’s clear from the opening trio that he was going to get his own way here, and the tracks were a reverent recreation of the live shows that shot the band to the tip of tounges back in the late 70s and early 80s.
None more so was this the case than when they hit into the double feature of ‘Transmission’ and ‘She’s Lost Control.’ It won't be of any surprise to you that these two were the first that got the building properly rocking. From the first hit of the iconic rumbling bass of the former to the rhythmic hypnotism of the latter, the Mancunion punters were bearing their souls, and belting out lyrics, channelling a love for their city and its music that you struggle to find elsewhere in the world, nevermind the country.
Image: Skiddle Staff
‘Incubation’, ‘Dead Souls’, and ‘Atmosphere’ followed in a similar suit, before the Manc anthem itself, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ finished off the Joy Division section of proceedings. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a song that can unite a city like Love Will Tear Us Apart. It’s adorned on the walls of our city in graffiti of varying quality, we remix it into football chants, and we sing it to arm and arm every time it comes on in a pub or club. It’s a track so embedded in the city's psyche that it’d probably be worthy of analysis. A track that everyone knows the words to (well the chorus at least), and one that will never die.
It was strange having a mid-gig break, but it was one that allowed everyone to catch their breath, turn to their pals on each shoulder with a big grin on their faces and proclaim: ‘how bloody good was that?’, and also make some mad sprints to the toilets (from the older heads in the crowd anyway). What was to follow would be too good to miss.
As Peter Hook and Co stepped back onto the stage, the lights that flooded the peripherals were already letting people know that a change of pace was imminent. Gone were the muted yet immediate lights that were draped over the Joy Division tracks, replaced instead by a kaleidoscopic neon colour scape that warned of an impending boogie.
A boogie that was unleashed from the very first note of the opening track ‘Ceremony’. There is quite possibly no better track to bridge the gap between the two sets. The lyrics for this ‘Ceremony’ were written by Curtis before his untimely death, and the track, released in 1981, bridged the gap between what Joy Division had been and what New Order would become. Smart, subtle, and probably only realised by the music nuts in the crowd, it was a special moment on the night, one that told a complex and emotional tale without uttering a single word.
The set continued through the next tracks on the New Order Substance record in a similar neon-soaked glory as the crowd grooved along to the bassline of the rarely-heard-live ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ before Hooky and co hit into fan favourite ‘Temptation’ which had the crowd gleefully screaming out the many different colours of the mystery girls eyes, before going up, down, turning around, and never wanting to hit the ground. A personal favourite New Order track that Peter Hook himself described in a book on the band as their “first attempt at producing all show & no go” and boy does it deliver just that. A truly excellent song that has never not set a room, stage, or field alight in dance and joy.
If that wasn't enough for everyone in the room, then what followed would be. Almost instantaneously after the last note of temptation, that old repetitive, thumping drum hit in. The one that precedes the wobbly synths and explosive soundscape of groove-inducing rhythms. The one that still to this day is the highest-selling 12” of all time. Of course, it was ‘Blue Monday.’
Hearing this in the middle of a set was a change of pace, but one that absolutely nobody in the room was complaining about, the track lifted the room to a level that only ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ had gotten them too so far, and it's hard to not understand why. A stone-cold classic and a testament to the man on stage and everything he has been a part of.
The high the track caused the next few songs to fly by in a two-step and a singalong, and before we knew it we’d blitz through years of material. From ‘Confusion’ to ‘Thieves Like Us’ to ‘The Perfect Kiss’ to ‘Subculture’ to Shellshock’, the room was alive with the rave, and the joy emitting from all on stage and in the crowd was infectious and entrancing. It’s rare that music does this. Truly makes people forget about everything and lose themselves within it. Sure when it's your favourite band you can quite easily get lost, but for live music to do this to an entire room with thousands inside, simultaneously, it’s a testament to those who created it, and it was something really special to be a part of.
Coming towards the end of the New Order Substance section of the set, The Light hit us with three more stone-cold classics with little filler. ‘State Of The Nation’, ‘Bizzare Love Traingle’ and ‘True Faith’ capped it all off, and left dancing shoes chaffing their feet; and every face awe-stricken by what they had just witnessed.
Image: Skiddle Staff
Whilst we can already hear the grumbles of the elitists amongst you, who probably scorn at the idea of Peter Hook & The Light and these gigs that annal Joy Division and New Order's illustrious history, we’ve only got one thing to say. Bore off and have some fun.
The encore was short and sweet, with the band sticking to just two tracks ‘Regret’ and ‘Crystal’. They didn't have much more they could do, but these two songs are gems in New Orders history, and understandably tough to leave out. As the crowd erupted in appreciation come the end of the set, they were in for one more surprise… Peter Hook taking his top off and throwing it into the crowd, finishing up with his bass held high in reciprocal admiration.
What a night, what a man, what a history, what a city. The Mancs in attendance were buzzing on exit, and we’re sure Peter and Co were too. If you ever get the chance to see them live, drop any inhibitions and do it, there are few better ways in the modern day to see these tunes live, and if they even come close to what they did on Saturday night, you’ll be in for a treat.
If you missed this run of sold-out Peter Hook & The Light gigs, then do not fear, they still have some festival dates to look forward to in 2023, most notably at Solfest. If you would like to find out more information on the festival or look at some of the FAQs, then you can find it all by clicking, or tapping - HERE
If you want to skip the noise and secure your tickets to see Hooky and Co at Solfest, then you can find tickets at the bottom of this page.
Peter Hook is also a key cog in the Hacienda Classical, who will be headlining Highest Point Festival in Lancaster this year. If you would like to find out more information on the festival or look at some of the FAQs, then you can find it all by clicking, or tapping - HERE
Or, if again, you just want to secure your tickets to see Hacienda Classical at Highest Point, then you can find tickets at the bottom of this page.
Check out our What's On Guide to discover more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.