Sunday 10 December 2017

Peter Hook & The Light - Salisbury City Hall - 8th December 2017

I'd seen Peter Hook a couple of times before and had slightly mixed feelings...

The first time was when he performed the two Joy Division Studio albums back to back and a few New Order tracks as a bonus.

I had really enjoyed that gig, but a second visit, to see him perform the first two New Order albums felt a bit flat, especially for the first album.

At the time, I suspected some (at least) of that was due to the material - that first NO album falls rather uneasily between a JD album and the different direction New Order would take as they came to terms with the loss of Ian Curtis.

When I saw that Hooky was to perform the two Substance albums (effectively the first 'greatest hits' albums of the two groups), I decided this wouldn't suffer that problem and booked myself a ticket, deciding to drive the 50 miles to Salisbury (a city I used to visit frequently in my early years, but have only, rarely, passed through more recently) rather than face the rush to catch a train home from London.

I set out early and got to Salisbury about 6:15, time to grab a Nandos and wander briefly around the few Christmas market stalls still open and decide I really do need to go to Salisbury for a day sometime again, before making my way to the City Hall.

I'd been here once before, with my son, to see Milton Jones, so I knew what to expect.

Arriving about 45 minutes early for the scheduled 8PM start ("No support" - There was a lot of material to cover, so no loss there!), I decided to take a seat as it was unallocated standing or seating as I wished. My plan was to sit for a while and get up and go to the floor once they appeared on stage, but somehow I never did and I had the relative novelty of sitting throughout the event.

Whether that changed my view of the gig is hard to say, but this is what I felt.

Hooky and his band appeared about 8:10and went straight into a trio of early New Order tracks, "In a Lonely Place", "Procession" and "Cries and Whispers", before starting into New Order's Substance proper with "Ceremony" and "Everything's Gone Green".

I can't ever shake the feeling that Peter Hook isn't Bernard Sumner vocally and, whilst some of the tracks were great, especially "Everything's Gone Green", "The Perfect Kiss", "State of the Nation" and the little played "1963" that rounds out New Order's Substance, and Hooky's base is unmistakable and missed from the current New Order lineup, despite his replacement's best efforts, it didn't really sound like New Order.

It was good, but, given the choice, I'd rather see the current New Order perform Substance, just because Peter Hook, and one of his colleagues who sang a few of the songs, just don't sound like Barney.

I'd imagine it's a bit like seeing Queen, with someone other than Freddie Mercury singing (Not a band I've ever liked, but it seems doubly pointless to see them without their iconic frontman). Also, as NO tracks become more electronic, there are parts where Hooky's bass isn't employed and at times he looked at a bit of a loss, waiting for his chance to return to the fray.

After the New Order set, there was a 15 minute or so interval and then they were back, starting into "No Love Lost", "Komakino", "These Days" and a couple of other early tracks, before launching into the original Substance LP order with "Warsaw" and "Leaders Of Men".

I think it's true to say that Peter Hook does "Joy Division" better than "New Order" - His vocal style on these tracks does mimic Ian Curtis' to a degree, but does so well, and so they sound more like the recordings and whilst you couldn't quibble about the enthusiasm Hooky put into the NO part of the gig, he seemed more comfortable and engrossed in delivering the JD material.

The workrate was relentless, for both albums the tracks followed on instantly from the end of the previous one (A constraint of time, I guess) with few chances to interact with the crowd, except to put one heckler down very effectively early on, wonder at the gap between the audience and the stage and to a have a bit of a joke at one point when the other bass guitarist was having sound issues briefly.

For much of the gig I wondered at the wisdom of performing New Order before Joy Division, but the last 15 minutes of the gig proved Hooky knew what he was doing.

Ending the night on "1963" would have been anti-climatic, even with "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "True Faith" directly before, but by ending on the LP order of Joy Division (actually the latter release of the two, so perhaps another reason for the order, given Factory's obsession with numbering everything!) we were treated to a finale of "Atmosphere" followed by "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

If maybe Hooky doesn't do some New Order tracks as well as the remaining members, they certainly can't hold a candle to his performance of "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

You could have forgiven even a generally dreadful performance for the sheer brilliance of that, but of course, there was nothing to forgive as it had been quality entertainment throughout, even if I'm more convinced than ever about where Hooky's ultimate strengths lie.

As the last note died, he wished the audience a thank you and a Merry Christmas, before the lights came on and we left - No encore required - Nothing could top that finale!


New Order
In a Lonely Place
Cries and Whispers
Everything's Gone Green
Blue Monday
Thieves Like Us
The Perfect Kiss
State of the Nation
Bizarre Love Triangle
True Faith

Joy Division
No Love Lost
From Safety to Where...?
These Days
Leaders of Men
She's Lost Control
Dead Souls
Love Will Tear Us Apart

PS If my review sounds a bit negative on the New Order performance, don't let me put you off. I've been to see Peter Hook and the Light 3 times since he left New Order and I rarely see a band twice.

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