by / November 26th, 2013 /

Peter Hook & The Light – Belfast

A band being their own support strikes fear in the heart of gig-goers. An ill-advised acoustic set, the frontman’s new side-project or even a duet with the romantic other half of the main songwriter are common disasters. A Peter Hook audience have no such fear though, safe in the knowledge that The Light are not about half-assed loving sentiments nor acoustic versions. They are about the past, and knowing what their audience want they strive to recreate the past as accurately as possible. New ideas won’t win any prizes here. We’re here to see The Light do what they do best, play New Order’s first two albums – Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies – in order of tracklisting with everything in its place. Support therefore must be thoughtfully chosen and is, with The Light supporting themselves with what came before New Order’s first album: a Joy Division set.

Calling themselves Slaves Of Venus, it’s a dark affair, providing context for the lightness that is to follow. Unfavourable comparisons to Joy Division’s late singer Ian Curtis are all too readily on the lips until we hear the sensitively and passionately rendered songs, Hook’s voice sounding guttural and enough like impending death to effectively evoke lyrics that were famously written by Curtis, inspired by his eventually unsuccessful struggle with depression. It’s a striking set, bringing home the truth of the lyrics to an audience for whom this is a pilgrimage. ‘Heart and Soul’ is snarled through, the Gothier-in-a-live-setting songs creating an emptiness in us, ‘In A Lonely Place’ relentless in its recognisable drumbeat and ancient cymbal-tinged mysticism.

A ripple of anticipation bubbles through the audience as the five men take to the stage for the second time during the evening, an audience knowing that the early days’ penance has been paid and that introspective time is over. Some crowd members reach for – and are granted – hugs with Hook and the lads, one wit calls for ‘World In Motion’ and everyone laughs, giddy.

‘Ceremony’ shows the difference between Hook and Sumner’s voices, a little depth and resonance missing on the final “watching love grow, forever, letting me know, forever” perhaps, but it’s much of a muchness as the mood quickly becomes jubilant. It’s a solidly even set, no real peaks or troughs which speaks for Movement as an album really, the group finding their feet after the demise of Curtis, their decision to carry on and the introduction of synths which are prevalent here, some songs sounding charmingly dated because of this. ‘Senses’ is almost one of the 80s casualties, reeking of that era but in context, the whirring helicopter blade of a track speeds up and makes our hearts race with it.

Movement over, the band disappear for another while, giving time to reflect on the fearsome, charismatic frontman that Peter Hook has become since breaking away from New Order in 2007. Dirtier and darker than the clean-cut Sumner, less joyful and more gritty, sweating in his grey t-shirt and rubbing at his nose grotesquely, clearly not caring about image in a way that wins the hearts of the working men in the audience.

‘Age Of Consent’ [coupled with an off-colour joke about Jimmy Saville] blows the cobwebs from the happily passive audience. It’s a dancier set, squelching synths during ‘5, 8, 6’ closer to a release from Prince than Movement racking everything up a notch. Basically, Power, Corruption & Lies was New Order’s first ‘pop’ album, and it doesn’t disappoint live, even with a different vocal. With the exception of ‘We All Stand’ it’s the most melodic point of the night so far, tighter with bursts of synth-sugared euphoria, the six-string bass playing the higher basslines provoking beams from the crowd. A ‘Blue Monday’ soundtracked break lets the excitement ratchet up again, an encore granting the audience a final wide-eyed roaring singalong to a sense-filling ‘True Faith’, ‘Blue Monday’ possibly descending into karaoke territory as an exhausted Hook awkwardly Dad-dances to the intro as his band members troop off stage. Awkwardness aside though, it’s a classic this audience would not be denied and it sends men of a certain age home happy, tears in the eyes of more than one gentleman spectator tonight.

Photo: Mark McNulty