There was an air of trepidation in the audience last night before New Order took the stage.
The excitement of seeing the band they had loved for so long performing for the first time in six years was tempered by the concern that missing from the line-up was iconic bass player Peter Hook. Considered the driving force behind their live performances, there were many (not least Hook himself) who felt that New Order just wouldn’t be the same, and possibly shouldn’t even exist, without him.
However there are plenty of other familiar sights to reassure the New Order purists. Front man Bernard Sumner is of course present and he is backed by original drummer Stephen Morris. Add to this the sight of Gillian Gilbert standing motionless behind her keyboard after a hiatus of 10 years and with a bit of imagination you could almost believe that you were back in the Hacienda in the mid-80s. Completing the line-up were Phil Cunningham on second guitar and Tom Chapman taking on the unenviable challenge of filling Hook’s boots on bass.
The set opened with a section of guitar-based hits including Elegia, Regret and Ceremony, all of which were met with a nodding but reserved approval from the crowd. There was a bit of a lull until near the midway point when the drum machines kicked in to introduce Bizarre Love Triangle and the audience finally started to show some real interest.
This was followed by a well-received version of True Faith which kept the crowd moving and dispelled any lingering doubts that the band can function as a live unit without Hook. The momentum was maintained through to the strong double-header finale of Blue Monday and Temptation, while never quite setting the venue on fire.
It was only during the encore of Joy Division covers that the magic really happened, a sublime version of Transmission followed by an energetic and uplifting Love Will Tear Us Apart Again providing a fitting end to the evening and leaving the audience thinking less “Peter Hook” and more “Peter who?”