“Tonight we’re evoking the spirit of William Wallace to help us entertain you so here we go,”Â says Bernard Sumner”Â¦ his gentle – almost bashful voice ”â calls out. Seen from way down here at the very back of the cavernous King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent the Manchester giants are tiny Lego men – so much so that musically at least you can kid yourself Hooky is there. Bad Lieutenant’s Tom Chapman is doing a great job of stepping seamlessly into his shoes.
Hook’s here though in spirit ”â his bassline packing a massive punch in show opener ”ËCrystal’ from 2001’s ”ËGreat Ready’. It’s industrialisation set to music – hypnosis carried out with a machine-like precision.
“Thankfully we’re playing in the tent tonight because the weather is double-shit,”Â Bernard says ”â earning a cheer from the crowd. The mood is buoyant, up for it, celebratory almost.
Still when ”ËRegret’ kicks in it has the power to make you want to cry face-down on the sodden ground – one watery eye on the black soulless hole leading outside. This is pain perfectly packaged for pop – a gentle refining of Joy Division’s ”ËCeremony’, which follows two songs later.
If ”ËAge of Consent’ with Stephen Morris’ rat-a-tat cymbal and pacey rhythm evokes that heart flutter you get on the countdown the weekend, then ”ËKrafty’ is the walk down the street that breaks into a run.
”ËBizarre Love Triangle’ – with its big-sweep orchestral manoeuvres and keyboard pounding – is the joy of a factory worker escaping to the Saturday nightclub scene. Glo-sticks have been busted out and every inch of King Tut’s is filled with the sheer physicality of the size of the sound.
We need a spiritual breather in the shape of ”ËTrue Faith’. As familiar as the shape of a loved one’s hand, you slip into it comfortably ”â the words spilling out like a psalm.
“We’d play all night if we could,”Â Bernard says after ”ËThe Perfect Kiss’, “but Stephen’s getting on a bit.”Â
It doesn’t sound like it – listening to him pound the skins with the clinical accuracy of a droid. Sumner’s diction is impeccable too ”â every lyric perfectly enunciated.
”ËBlue Monday’ ”â predictably ”â cranks things up another notch. The merciless beat”Â¦ a marching Totalitarian army”Â¦ your disembodied auto response”Â¦it’s just sublime.
A warm breath of life ”â ”ËTemptation’ – re-inflates us. It’s a stick-on smile of pure pleasure”Â¦ beautifully optimistic just like the band themselves.
You look up and think of Ian Curtis and wonder what he’d make of it all – feeling sad for what was lost, but grateful for what was and just stupidly hopeful that on the other side, in some other place, it was and is better.
An opportune moment then to roll out show closer ”ËLove Will Tear Us Apart’. Those first few bars”Â¦ that twang”Â¦ now the drums”Â¦ the keyboard”Â¦ everything”Â¦it’s too much.
It’s not Bernard entertaining us – it’s a collective effort that seems to say we’ve been torn but we’re stitched; we were broken and now we’re glued. Not perfect, not better but still here and brilliant in our own way.