In the newly renovated Hallé St Peter’s (formerly St Peter's church), St Peter Hook, with a little help from some friends, nearly brought the grade II listed building tumbling back down into dilapidation through the boom of his voice and the incitement of stage invasions.
Deadly serious, Hook looked a man possessed by the music, intent on smashing his way through the performance come rain, shine or the apocalypse.
Located in the deep dark depths of Ancoats, St Peter’s lays low within an area of the city hidden from the masses, attested to by the befuddled pair of blokes I encountered wandering aimlessly along Great Ancoats Street in search of Hooky. Abandoned in 1960, St Peter’s lay vacant until £3m worth of funding restored it to its former glories.
Usually a rehearsal space for the Hallé Orchestra, the former church has slowly begun to widen its horizons - firstly with Kenneth Branagh's Manchester International Festival performance in Macbeth and now as a gig venue.
After last year’s success with Tim Burgess joining Peter Hook in Manchester Cathedral it was a no brainer to run the event again, this time with a brand new celestial venue.
Void of its former godly purpose, St Peter’s pasty pristine interior heavily contrasts the original red brick exterior. Stepping inside makes you feel as though you’ve entered an anti-Tardis, the imposing exterior is nullified by the cosy intimacy of the inner sanctum making for a wonderfully personal space for a gig.
Not just any gig, the night was the second annual ‘Music For Cities’ event, bringing together local musical heroes with upcoming local talent raising funds for local charities. A local affair then.
This year’s worthy causes are United Estates of Wythenshawe, a community group allowing young people the chance to initiate their own projects in disadvantaged areas, and the Charles Hallé Foundation, a charity that helps support the orchestra and creates the opportunity for children to hear the sounds of instruments or a full orchestra for the very first time.
Warm up for the Hooky main event came in the form of fellow Factory Records alumni A Certain Ratio. While originally formed in the haze of post-punk, the group added a combination of electronic and funk to form their 'post-punk-funk' sound, music for the Hacienda rather than two chords noise to feed a pogo pit.
Commencing their hour long set with a frantic jamming session, the band swiftly ran through their back catalogue of melodic dance floor fillers, impressively composed of heavy drums, soulful brass woodwind and Jez Kerr’s deadpan lyrical delivery. A Certain Ratio’s live music takes on a bolder quality of sound that isn’t afforded to them on their more sedate recordings.
Denise Johnson’s soulful vocals coupled with the group’s muddled look would have them thrown in the same trippy boat as the Happy Mondays, but ominous overtones and jazzy saxophone accompaniments make them more like a bizarre concoction of The Specials and New Order.
Ending on bobbing hits Shack Up and Won’t Stop Loving You move the 150 strong crowd out of their Sunday town hall slumber into a more geriatric shuffle.
Completely out of keeping with the acts that sandwiched them, local rappers Zee Major and Shawe's Diamonds hit the stage, much to the bewilderment of the middle-aged Joy Division fans. Tinie Tempah imposter Zee Major spits his way through a fifteen minute cameo, beer in hand and sunglasses still on, he looked every bit the part.
His attempts at hyping his track Headshot left one audience member stuck in the perpetual motion of shouting “headshot!” for the next ten minutes or so, much to everyone, even Zee Major’s, amusement.
After some Americanised verses and over sampled J Dilla beats by Shawe's Diamonds, the heavyweight Hook took centre stage, his bass hung as low as humanly possible without becoming unreachable to play.
Kicking off as sombre as possible with talk of a bereavement and playing ultimate funeral anthem Atmosphere, the mood sunk to a dour low. Before long all sadness was forgotten as Hook burst into some Joy Division classics. His gruff and gravelly delivery punctuated by yells of terrifying force, loud enough to dispense the walls of Jericho with one deep breath.
Deadly serious, Hook looked a man possessed by the music, intent on smashing his way through the performance come rain, shine or the apocalypse. Musically each track is pitch perfect but vocally there is a marked difference from Ian Curtis’ often inaudible original. Instead Hook goes for sheer force and impact in his approach, the dulcet tones of Curtis replaced by pure aggression on Digital and Shadowplay. This alternate sound works for the better, bringing a new power and edge to songs now over 30 years old.
Hitting halfway with a never-failing Love Will Tear Us Apart sing-a-long, Hooky jokingly remarks: “It’s now time for the more successful part of my career, Revenge." Of course it’s not Revenge, no one even really knew this failed band existed; instead Hook and backing band, The Light, delve into New Order’s first two albums.
Suddenly the mood was lifted, the crowd bounded into life, heads started to bob and Hook might have even let out a smile during the bass-centric intro to Age Of Consent.
The unexpected cancellation of an accompanying choir leaves Hook no choice but to call on his musical mates for a spot of 'factory karaoke', inducing a party atmosphere amongst the high-roofed hall. Jez Keer and Donald Johnson of A Certain Ratio, along with Warren 'Dermo' Dermody of Northside all making guest vocal appearances. Kerr’s delivery the perfect foil to Hook’s bass on Transmission.
After a rousing rendition of Temptation, the synthetic bounce of Blue Monday kicks in, prompting Hooky to incite an organised stage invasion. Not one to miss out and to insure a most thorough review, we also decide to bound on stage to belt out the chorus amongst a mosh pit of giddy middle-aged men lodged behind Hooky. It was reminiscent of an early Smith’s gig ended with the on-stage mayhem swirling around Morrissey.
It was a refreshing and exhilarating experience to share the stage with a musical legend without being launched back into the pit by a heavy-set and grouchy bald bouncer.
A fantastic night of Manchester’s musical past and future was epitomised by rapper Zee Major taking over vocal duties from Hooky as Blue Monday came to a close. A superb event for a worthy cause, it was everything a gig should be and more in the spanking new Hallé St Peter’s.
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