Photos and Words by Steve White
This was always going to be a huge night of nostalgia. More so for some of those present than others. It’s Manchester and it’s Peter Hook playing both Joy Division albums. For some of us the memories go right back to those early days of punk/post-punk/new wave when, as a 13/14 year old every spare penny was spent buying records or gig tickets.
Peter Hook introduces tonight’s support, the first band he saw live – Salford Jets. (Nostalgia part 1: Salford Jets played at my school youth club’s Wednesday ‘New Wave Nite’ in 78/79). Formed in the early 70’s Salford Jets were well known and deservedly popular on the Manchester punk scene and, 45 years later, have lost none of their energy as they blast through a perfect set of timeless punk rock bangers. Cops And Robbers, She’s Gonna Break Your Heart, Last Bus, Don’t Start Trouble see singer Mike Sweeney absolutely bouncing around the stage, grinning from ear to ear, clearly enjoying every second.
The final three songs – Manchester Boys, Gina (I’ve Got A Cortina) and Who You Looking At? are greeted with a particularly enthusiastic response from those at the front of this home crowd who shout along in perfect unison to words that no doubt have taken them straight back to their youth.
Peter Hook and The Light walk on stage and open with the majestic Elegia, an instrumental that not only showcases Hooky’s bass playing but also conjures up every emotion it’s possible to feel. Running through a superb set of New Order songs – from the early days of Procession and Cries & Whispers through the huge sound of cloud pleaser Regret, the dance beats of Vanishing Point, Monaco’s What do You Want From Me and closing with a massive The Perfect Kiss.
The interlude allows time for Joe Duddall and Mike Garry’s St Anthony: An Ode To Anthony H Wilson to be played, icon of Factory Records and presenter of So It Goes amongst other TV programs without Tony Wilson so much of the Manchester music scene might never have happened.
Joy Division first played the Apollo in 1979, supporting Buzzcocks. (Nostalgia part 2: I was there.) Tonight Peter Hook opens as they did then with Dead Souls, an Ian Curtis favourite that allowed the band to suss out the crowd response and then Disorder introduces the first notes from Unknown Pleasures and from this moment it’s a night not just to celebrate two of the most influential albums to rise from the remnants of punk, but to reminisce, remember Manchester in it’s musical heyday – you couldn’t imagine these songs originating anywhere else, and be reminded of the sounds and sights that influenced us as we negotiated the transition from teens to young adults. These aren’t songs to leap around to.
Rather they’re songs so powerful, so full of feeling they engulf the venue in a collective sense of awe. And Peter Hook & The Light deliver them brilliantly. Day Of The Lords, Candidate, New dawn Fades build upon each other, the interplay of bass playing by Hook and his son Jack, the guitar of David Potts, Paul Kehoe’s drums and Martin Rebelski’s keyboards pretty much note perfect. . She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay and Interzone bring some of the raw edginess of punk. Close your eyes and it could be 1979 again and as the final notes of I Remember Nothing end Unknown Pleasures I send a one word text to a mate, “Brilliant”.
Closer moved Joy Division further away from their punk beginnings, the harsher edges smoothed over to give an overall much more melancholic atmosphere. The rumbling beats of Isolation, scratchy post punk of Colony and the driving force of A Means To An End ultimately giving way to the heart tugging emotions of Twenty Four Hours, The Eternal and, closing it all, Decades.
Unknown Pleasures and Closer were the soundtracks to a time and a place. Joy Division were unique in what they did and nobody has matched it since. Yet here in 2022, listening to Peter Hook & The Light play them again, it’s easy to understand why they’ve lost none of their appeal, why the Apollo is packed with 3000 people, from teens to those well into the upper bounds of middle age, all of whom take something from these songs.
The encore opens with Atmosphere, dedicated to Paul Ryder of Happy Mondays and Steve Shy, producer of Manchester’s earliest punk fanzine Shy Talk and someone who immersed himself in the Manchester music scene right up until his death, both of whom passed away very recently. Ceremony, New Order’s debut single but originally a Joy Division song, sees the crowd bouncing. Transmission follows before Love Will Tear Us Apart brings looks of pure joy and one of the biggest sing-a-long’s any gig goer is likely to hear for a very long time.
I’ve often said I’m not keen on Peter Hook singing New Order songs but tonight’s opening choices went some way to change that opinion. I’ve always said he does anything by Joy Division brilliantly. Tonight was no different. Peter Hook and The Light did Ian Curtis proud. It was a superb performance that will live long in the memories of those lucky enough to be here.