PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT
With two big gigs imminently coming up in London and Manchester (playing both of New Orders first two albums in their entirety) I was pleasantly surprised to find Peter Hook chose the intimate surroundings of Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff to road test the capabilities of his relatively new band The Light to play "Movement" and "Power, Corruption and Lies".
His falling out with the rest of New Order has been well documented. However, Hook seems to take the view that, as he was equally responsible for the creation of Joy Division/New Order's back catalogue, there is no reason why he shouldn't continue playing these classic songs. He admits himself that he studiously ignored Joy Division during his time in New Order. So, he used the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis' death in 2010 as a reason to put a band together and tour well loved, but rarely played, Joy Division numbers. Having completed that facet of his early career, he has now made the logical step of moving on to the formation of New Order.
Other than Hook on vocals and bass (albeit he does not continually play his instrument, seemingly content to sing and periodically throw rock star poses for the sell out audience), The Light is made up of Jack Bates on bass, Nat Wason on guitar, Paul Kehoe on drums and Andy Poole on keyboards. All are considerably younger than Hook and, in a way, add a certain amount of youthful exuberance and naivety to the proceedings. Not unlike presumably New Order were some 30+ years ago.
Opening rather sombrely with first single "In a Lonely Place", the mood is soon uplifted with the anthemic bass line of "Ceremony" booming around the 200 capacity venue. I think its fair to say the demographic of the audience was largely 40-50, but that's not to say there weren't many considerably younger people in attendance equally as enthusiastic about seeing one of rocks most charismatic characters up close and personnel.
"Movement" was borne out of the tragic demise of one of punks tortured geniuses, Ian Curtis. On his death in May 1980, it was widely regarded that the remaining members of the band would call it a day. But by June of that year Hook, Sumner and Morris were on tour in the US fulfilling prior engagements. However, It would still be another 17 months before new material was released. For me though the album bears the hallmarks of a band still in mourning for a fallen comrade. Indeed rumour has it that track "ICB" is an acronym for Ian Curtis Buried.
The ethereal beauty of "Dreams Never End" and "Doubts Even Here" cannot be denied, songs on which Hook actually took lead vocals on the original album. The former is arguably the last song that New Order would utilise the normal guitar - drums - bass formula of a rock group. The remainder of the album would introduce the more electronic sound that became their trademark.
Live, hearing Hook's dulcet tones, instead of the more recognisable ones of Barney Sumner, takes some getting used to. However Hook is a confident and competent vocalist in equal measures and handles the job admirably. It struck me he also revels in the knowledge his band are musically competent enough to bang out note-perfect renditions of the rest of the album. So we get faultless performances of "Truth", "Senses", "Chosen Time" and "The Him", the latter being another rumoured eulogy to their former singer.
Overall the songs are dark, offer little light relief and have a sense of melancholy about them. Therefore, I cannot say I was particularly perturbed when the abrupt ending of album closer "Denial" concluded the first half of the set. In truth, it was not for "Movement" that I had come tonight, but to hear New Orders' landmark follow up "Power, Corruption & Lies".
After a very short break, the band return to the stage for the second half of proceedings. "Power, Corruption and Lies" was released a year and a half after their debut, and in the intervening period the band had seemingly emerged from darker places. They were now a confident, powerful sounding unit and this was instantly reflected in their new material. A mark of the album's longevity was it being voted into the Rolling Stone magazines list of the 100 albums of the 1980's (#94)
Repeating the formula of giving us the singles preceding the album, the band blast through "Mesh", "Cries and "Whisper" and "Everything's Gone Green". However, from the opening salvo of "Age of Consent" the mood in the venue changed from one of quiet reflection to joyous appreciation of a master at work. Whilst playing the bass practically round his knees, Hook stood god-like in front of a mass of humanity that moved as one, bathed in a sense of euphoria at hearing the majestic beauty of the songs. Look on my works ye mighty and despair!
There are still some subdued numbers, such as "We All Stand" and "Ultraviolence", but even these are more uplifting than the almost funeral like dirges of the first album. However, with the band well into their stride by now, we get a belting version of "The Village", giving the crowd a chance to join in the sublime chorus of "Our love is like the flowers, the rain and the sea and the hours". "5-8-6" shows the first stages of New Orders progression that would ultimately result in "Blue Monday".
The only reservation I have tonight is that with the album utilising a lot of synthesizers and sequencers, the role of certain band members (most notably the drummer) was largely redundant for great swathes of the second half of the performance.
"Your Silent Face" allows Hook to show his musical versatility featuring, as it does, a melodica in its opening and closing sequences. The bass line permeates its way throughout the entire song, set against a back drop of crashing electric drums and swirling synthesizers. Also, I'm at a loss to think of another song (apart from the Sex Pistols "Anarchy in the UK") that has such a vitriolic ending: "You've caught me at a bad time, so why don't you piss off".
New Order were to later become synonymous with dance music and "Ecstasy" and, set finisher, "Leave Me Alone" clearly shows the building blocks being put in place. Both having the repetitive machine like drumming that would become their forte and makes you move your feet almost subconsciously.
So the you have it , clocking in at just under two hours both the albums played in their entirety, plus a smattering of singles. Who could ask for more? Well, as it happens we could!
So, the band returned to the stage and swagger their way through "Hurt", before unleashing a blinding rendition of "Temptation". What until this point had been an excellent night, suddenly became a life defining moment. The crowd genuinely seemed taken over by an air of euphoria and was carried along on a wave of nostalgia in hearing again live such a truly grandiose song. And then as if things couldn't get better...they did! "Blue Monday". Need I say more?
So hats off to Peter Hook. 56 he may be, but still a rock god. Backed by such a tight band as The Light, he can indulge himself, and us, by strutting through songs that most bands today would give their right arms for. As he pointed out himself, its taken 30 years to revisit Cardiff and he doesn't expect to be around in 30 years to repeat the trick! However, it was a privilege to have been in such an intimate setting tonight to hear such genre defining songs.
And as if to prove the point, once the band had left the stage and the house lights had been raised, Hook returns to bum a cigarette from a bemused audience member. I can't see that happening at Wembley Stadium anytime soon!