The Peter Hook musical odyssey continues, and for me it’s a case of “be careful what you wish for”… after catching Hooky and his charges deliver the first 2 New Order albums perfectly at The Fleece back in September 2013 (gig 886), I was hoping he’d continue in that vein and move onto their 3rd and 4th, namely 1985’s merging of synthesised dance and brooding, rumbling post-punk rock that was “Low-Life”, and the harder-edged 1986 follow-up, the darkly schizophrenic “Brotherhood”. Sure enough, he moved onto that, announcing a tour after a successful London date, so I booked up for the Cardiff gig, the nearer Reading one clashing with mine and Rich’s “Mad March To Bristol” SLF date last Sunday!
Cardiff on a Thursday then, so I left just after 5 straight from work, hitting traffic around Bristol and then grinding to a halt for massive queues at the Severn Toll. Unfortunately this shitty stop-start state of affairs continued around the car-park that is the M4 around Newport, thus it was a frustrated Sheriff that parked up around the corner from the venue on some free street parking at 20 to 8, some 2 ½ hours after setting off. Bah! My Cardiff-domiciled friend Craig unfortunately cried off for financial reasons, so I headed solo into this new venue, a smallish but wide hall in, I guess, an old Tramshed! I didn’t have too long to settle into a stage-right spot near the front before the lights dimmed at 8 and Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” heralded the entrance of Peter Hook and his 5-piece back-up boys The Light at 8, for an initial set composed mainly of numbers from his first band, Joy Division, and opening with a dark, moody “Dead Souls”, Hooky’s sinister, growling bass already a prominent feature.
I guess I should have “That Debate” at this point; a few friends of mine have expressed concern about the premise of Hooky out on the road, playing his former charges’ material, given the acrimony in which he split from his former New Order bandmates. I’ve got no problem with it; for me Hook has every damn right to play these songs, not only given the influence he was within those bands back in the day, but also how much of a sonic factor his unique bass-playing was on said songs, underpinning the material and giving them mood, structure and magnificently brooding power. Also, he’s always played them like he owned them, his deep low vocals giving the songs added gravitas, and his former Monaco bandmates who comprise The Light back him up authentically and overall very well indeed. Such was the case tonight; a racey, snappy “These Days” featured some echoey, resonant guitar from David Potts, but this was topped by a frankly magnificent “Ceremony”, the unmistakable opening bass riff giving way to a glacially cool rendition with a brilliantly haunting crescendo, easily the highlight of this 40-minute opening set.
Barely 7 minutes later, they were back on, easing into the later “Brotherhood” set via slow-burn opener “Lonesome Tonight”. The opening tracks were a frantic, almost punky blast with the taciturn Hook taking centre stage with vocals, growling bass and the occasional guitar riffery; then it all went a bit disco with the bubbling synth of “Bizarre Love Triangle”. The full-length version, this, “BLT” (!) ignited the hitherto equally taciturn crowd into life, with a singalong of the joyful chorus hookline which was the highlight of the “Brotherhood” run-through. A morose, slow-burn “Every Little Counts” rounded off this section, Hooky grumbling the prophetic lyric, “I guess I should’ve known I’d end up on my own,” over the “Groovy Kind Of Love” refrain, before leading the band off for a brief respite.
A 5-minute pause this time before they were back on, opening “Low-Life” with a powerful, potent “Love Vigilantes” which was brilliant, another highlight of the night, embellished by Hook’s melodica refrain. Next up, “Perfect Kiss” was another highlight; again the full-length rendition, synth-dance powered with the cluttering, clattering middle 8 and happily featuring the chirping frog chorus before a lengthy playout. In fact, this album featured more memorable highlights, justifying its’ later run-through; “Sunrise” was a careering thrill-ride, “Elegia” was haunting and eerie, Hooky picking out the guitar riff from a chair (!), the disco pulse “Subculture” was a little discordant, with the bass-line a little low, but “Face Up” finished the set on a high, the choral hook of, “oh, I cannot bear the thought of you,” sung back by a now-fully engaged crowd, Hook again walking off at the song’s conclusion, still playing the bass riff.
“Thieves Like Us” kick-started the encore as I held my spot at the edge of a jump-about but good-natured mosh, then Hooky remarked, “you all look religious – the merch guy is a priest so you need to go and bloody confess – watch out for the thunderbolt!” before an angular, loose-limbed “True Faith”, then the staccato keyboard stab and brilliantly singalong hook of “Temptation” ended the set – or did it…?
“I’ve had a request – it was to “fuck off” so I’m coming back on – when you’re 60 you can be a right cantankerous bastard!” commented Hook, before an impromptu and utterly amazing “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, one of the high watermarks in post-punk’s musical history being delivered with a brilliantly judged balance of power and reverence, and an exhortation from Hook to, “c’mon you fucking sheep-shaggers!” as the middle-8 grew to its’ haunting crescendo break. Simply brilliant, with Hooky (who’d really put in a shift tonight, the time now bumping up to 10 to 11) whipping his “That’s What She Said” t-shirt off, throwing it into the crowd and taking a deserved bow. Well done son, bloody well done!
I grabbed a set-list, and the aforementioned guitarist Mr. Potts, onstage tidying up, not only signed it but took it backstage and got Hooky to sign it too. Bloody result! A considerably better drive back (despite a diversion onto the M48 Severn Crossing) saw me home elated at 12.30 after another evening in the company of the legend that is Peter Hook. “Substance” next up? Long may this odyssey continue!