The Light - Live At Manchester Cathedral Jan 2013 - Mick Middles Previously Unpublished Review

Posted on Tuesday, 2 April 2013

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Peter Hook and the Light

Manchester Cathedral, January 2013

The breath of history. A gig in England’s ‘widest’ church. Built from the sandstone of Collyhurst in the 15 century, Manchester Cathedral gained its upgrade in 1847. Somehow this seemed quite fitting. Gothic in the perpendicular style, this large inner space gains eerie, evocative effect when swirled about by dry ice, coloured lights glinting through the murk and the craggy faces of silvered New Order fans approaching cheerily through the darkness. Many had shuffled through the horrors of the crammed ‘Shambles’ pub prior to the gig…and it all seemed, at once, ancient and contemporary. It also felt like a true event, a big push in the heart of January, full of promise and good portents for the coming year

.Although the Cathedral’s dark shadows and dense stone might seem more fitting for choral haunting, its unlikely rebirth as a cathedral does, itself, carry a little history. Back in the mid seventies, it seems fitting to note, Tangerine Dream performed here, deliberately side-stepping the blandness of conventional venues. A decade later, as part of the embryonic Manchester Festival, Factory’s Durutti Column played one of the most memorable gigs of their career. Somehow, and against all odds, it works.

Sad to say that the unholy lure of The Shambles caused me to miss most of Modern Blonde’s set. Having supported them since their distant days as the precocious Tombots, it is good to see the finally serious ground.

Nevertheless, this was a day of Hooky…and of The Light. A homecoming and, given the seemingly endless haughty banter between Mr Hook and the ramshackle assembly currently known as New Order, it seemed that some kind of gauntlet had been thrown.

New Order’s first two albums, ‘Movement’ and ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’ would provide the bulk of the set, these solid, historical statements sweetly book-ended by both sides of their debut single, ‘Ceremony’ and ‘In A Lonely Place’ and ‘Blue Monday’, which powered the very notion of New Order into another planet.

Hooky’s courageous assurance that The Light are good enough ‘to take songs to a different level’ brought with it considerable weight of expectancy. On ‘Movement’, however, if not within the obvious genius of the preceding two songs, there has always been space for, well, movement! While ‘Ceremony’ and ‘In A Lonely Place’ were always effectively Joy Division songs, ‘Movement’ was the tentative, if not panicky sound of band and producer attempting to find a way forward. Hooky now has the chance to take the frazzled Martin Hannett out of the equation and concentrate on illuminating the shards of future that brightened an uneven album.

It is truly a testament to The Light’s ability to inhabit the songs and instil a new sense of ownership…not to the original recordings, but within these live outings. It has taken a number of year’s for them to gain this foothold. While their initial attempts to breathe new life into Joy Division’s legendary waxings proved lively, they probably lacked a sense of worth. Not so The Light of 2013, with Hook remaining silent to the for, they pumped and pushed into a distinctive contemporary area. This is not a tribute band…it is the sound of The Light. Onstage, they reminded me of mid-period Fall, a fittingly glorious place where the battle between the benevolent despotism of their leader is occasionally broken by the belligerent brilliance of any given band member. Great fun and proof that a band is ‘real’.

It was ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’ that, back in the mists of 1983, saw New Order finding their unlikely distinctive marriage of New York dance and, for want of a better phrase, embryonic indie. To assist them, back then, they wisely invested in a £4,000 Emulator 1 Sequencer. Today, there is little need for such comparative expense and, frankly, one can attain such sounds on a bloody iPad. This is an important comparison however, as The Light are able to operate with a technical freshness, especially in the modern era, that simply wasn’t available in the glory days of New Order. In 1983, the band was a hilariously live prospect, offering sheer blinding brilliance of, say, ‘Age of Consent’ and ‘Your Silent Face’ within a musicality that teetered on the verge of frameless anarchy. The Light, by contrast, can punch a new power into each and every song. This fact soon dawned on the crowd who warmed considerably at the album went through its paces.

‘Blue Monday’ arrived, hilariously, perfectly, sans band although, given the stark white light show and PA power that threatened damage to those 15 century foundations, it hardly mattered. In truth, the band could have left it at that, allowing the ghost of a song to point the way forward. They did reappear though, and the scene of 55 year old mosh-pit mayhem – Stasko, you poser – vindicated this climax.

And there hangs a delicate balance that promises so much more. The challenge now seems obvious. While there was room for movement within those first two albums, what can possibly be added to, say, ‘Low Life’ and, further down the line, ‘Technique’? Personally, I look forward to a live run though of the uneven ‘Brotherhood’.

But it was Manchester Cathedral, in January 2013 that played host to a moment of true glory. I don’t personally care about the crumbling dynamic of ageing band camaraderie, but it remains thrilling to see old favourites carried lovingly to a new place.

Many thanks to Mick for passing on this kind and considered review which had been awaiting publication elsewhere.

1 Comment (Hide)

1 | oaklandishdetroiter | 2nd April 2013 at 19:58

Sounds absolutely glorious! I'd love to see video if there is any. Well, there has to be; the quality of it would be the question.

I work in a 20th-century Gothic Revival cathedral whose ceiling was never finished, and while we host all kinds of music, amplified rock doesn't seem to work (in my opinion) due to the unfinished ceiling which makes for poor acoustics, and the fact that the whole thing is poured concrete (for seismic stability - we're in earthquake zone). But a 15th century, proper Gothic cathedral sounds perfect, to me, as a venue for a gig like this!

It's entirely fitting for cathedrals to showcase the arts, especially from their own communities. It seems an especially fitting venue for breathing new life and beauty into old classics - new life and beauty are what the Church is all about! And music has such shamanic power...

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