For once, the anticipation and hype for this gig could not be overstated. Peter Hook & The Light returned to Christ Church, Macclesfield, the spiritual home of Joy Division, to perform the complete works of the seminal band, 35 years on from the tragic death of lead singer Ian Curtis. Completely sold out, and with fans travelling from far and wide, the crowd were in for a treat.
Given the ambitious nature of the set list, the gig kicked off at 7pm promptly, launching into a hypnotic three and a half hour odyssey through the world of Joy Division. The venue, the beautiful red-brick Georgian Christ Church added wonderfully to the atmosphere – sun streaming through the stained-glass window directly behind the band showing Christ ascending to heaven watched on by the Apostles and Saints, shining through an incense-infused haze.
Peter Hook fronted the show with his usual confidence and amiable style, supported by the tight and evidently well-rehearsed band. One of the first songs, ‘Warsaw’, set the scene, harking back to the pre-Joy Division early days, followed in succession by classics such as the disturbing ‘No Love Lost’ and ‘From Safety to Where’ and the hypnotic ‘They Walked in Line’.
Providing some much-needed respite for Hook Rowetta, erstwhile of Mancunian legends Happy Mondays, took over on vocals for soulful takes of ‘Insight’ and ‘New Dawn Fades’, adding an interesting and somewhat different take to the Joy Division sound. She soared into the stratosphere with a show-stopping ‘Atmosphere’ – movingly dedicated by Hook to Ian Curtis – that evidently made a deep emotional impression on the crowd.
In a sense, this kind of emotion was central to the gig. It was infused with a sense of time and place – 35 years, Macclesfield, the venue Christ Church, which Curtis attended as a child – and presence and absence – Hook and Curtis. It pervaded through songs such as ‘Dead Souls’, definitely not a local theme but quintessentially Joy Division, to the rather more intimate ‘She’s Lost Control’, addressing themes of lives lived a mere walking distance from the venue.
Remarkably, more than 3 hours in, the buzz continued to grow with the crowd more energized than ever. Heading towards the finale, ‘Transmission’ had everybody off their feet and ‘dance, dance, DANCing to the radio’. And then, the inevitable, glorious climax – the definitive Joy Division track, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.
Of course, those who had the joy of seeing Joy Division live probably wouldn’t have felt the need to go to this gig but for the rest of us So This is Permanence presented a unique opportunity to get closer to the band whose brief existence made a permanent mark on music and pop culture.
A recording of the concert by Live Here Now is available here.
Proceeds from the event and recording benefit Epilepsy Society and The Churches Conservation Trust.
Photo credit: Craige Barker