It is, to pilfer the most shop-worn of footballing clichés, a game of two halves.

For the opening night of what is billed as an Easter Homecoming, Peter Hook, formerly of Revenge and Monaco, and now of Peter Hook & The Light, has elected to play the debut LPs by two of his better-known former bands in their entirety, kicking off with Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and matching it with Movement by New Order, released just two years later.

Of the two, it is the first that can best lay claim to the over-used accolade ‘iconic’, and the one that seems particularly suited to the stained glass and organ pipes that remain in place from the Albert Hall’s once-hallowed life as the Manchester and Salford Wesleyan Mission. This evening, the congregants are a mixed fellowship, perhaps most numerous among them men on the tightrope of the last of their middle age, a plastic pint in each hand.

Peter Hook and The Light at Albert Hall in Manchester. Credit: Scott Goldsbrough

Peter Hook and The Light at Albert Hall in Manchester. Credit: Scott Goldsbrough.

‘Hooky’, as it’s near-impossible not to style him, is at the centre of their attention, positioned in front of his familiarly graffitied speaker stacks, his bass slung perhaps an inch or two less low than in his pomp. Singing words pared so close to Joy Division lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis’s heart and soul, he contains what mixed emotions they must stir up in him with a committed rawness, rendering the likes of Insight’s ‘I remember when we were young’ an affecting poignancy that his more rockist instincts tend otherwise to muffle. Certainly, the bleak Motorhead of The Light’s take on Shadowplay cleaves closer to the scuff and unruliness of Joy Division before the studio polish of Martin Hannett opened up the disquiet that underpinned their drive.

Movement feels like a more comfortable fit, not least because, prior to Bernard Sumner‘s ordination as New Order’s sole lead vocalist, Hook himself sang on two of the album’s tracks, most notably Dreams Never End. Judiciously, The Light’s rendition of its running order diverts first through glorious non-album single, Procession. From the initial wave of its opening keyboard chords, a ripple of dance passes through the crowd, stirring them into a more fluid response. The first release written after Curtis’s death, it’s the sound of a band who, while not quite having found their voice, are beginning to find their feet.

If Unknown Pleasures is very much a known quantity, the songs on Movement can feel like less familiar territory. Procession and the proto-pop of Dreams Never End apart, hindsight marks it out as less a great album, and more a testimony to the Factory label’s admirable willingness to afford its acts the time and space to develop, to tinker with the Meccano set of songwriting. In tracks like the melodica-led Truth, it’s possible to discern the blueprint of the more fully-realised Everything’s Gone Green.

If the songs from Movement lack lustre, other absences are still more telling. It’s not merely the dreadful, irrevocable loss of Ian Curtis. Though gone for more than 40 years, his presence can still be summoned through the enduring half-life of his lyrics. Surprisingly, it’s as much the ghosts of the living which make themselves felt, in the reverberation of Stephen Morris’s martial drum patterns, underpinning so much of the evening’s set, but also the traces of Gillian Gilbert’s melodic sense and sensibility, and the chart-friendly diffidence of Bernard Sumner’s lingering self-consciousness.

Peter Hook and The Light at Albert Hall, Manchester. Credit: Helen Millington

Peter Hook and The Light at Albert Hall, Manchester. Credit: Helen Millington.

Rather more in the end than its billed two halves, the show is revealed as one of three movements, the encores acting as a kind of extra time. It’s in that final flourish, perhaps, that the spirit of New Order is exorcised, and the match is won on its own terms. Seemingly less constrained by fidelity to what has gone before, the frontline comes into its own. While Hook’s charisma still sucks in the spotlight, he now shares it with son Jack Bates and David Potts on guitar. Prefaced both by a fond farewell to departed friends and a Bacchanalian growl, The Light tears into the singles that stood apart from the LPs, staking out a terrain that’s theirs alone.

The culminating Love Will Tear Us Apart, its private desperation supplanted by the mass emotion of the terrace chant, is The Light in miniature, playing to the crowd, their hearts on their sleeves, their guitars held aloft and their shirts torn off. 

As Hooky himself puts it, with characteristic overstatement, “Here we go, Manchester.”

By Desmond Bullen

Main image by Helen Millington