Opening Decibel Festival 2013 at Neumos was a show that set the bar so high that it’s going to be hard to compete with it for the next four days. Peter Hook & The Light headlined the Factory Pop Showcase with a double header of classic New Order albums: Movement and Power, Corruption, & Lies in their entirety. This timeless history of one of the UK’s greatest groups made for a delightful opening ceremony. Joined by Detroit goth ravers ADULT. and Seattle’s own offering of gothic dance Nightmare Fortress, the Factory Pop Showcase was a sold out wonder. Oh yeah - and Moby totally showed up to sing Joy Division songs.
Nightmare Fortress are a pretty solid bet for your bill regardless of the type of music you play. Whether or not their goth pop textures and blinding light show fall in line with the headliner is irrelevant, because when Nightmare Fortress enters, the room is at full attention. Alicia Amiri and her band are a strobed out blur on stage, but their pulsing beats and near-clipping levels of sonic mutilation keep your feet moving with or without visual confirmation. Getting the crowd plenty riled up for ADULT. before their exit, Nightmare Fortress made their Decibel Festival debut one to remember.
Despite the equipment issues that plagued the first 20 or so minutes of ADULT.’s set, once the band got their levels turned up to 11, the place went nuts. ADULT. have been freaking us out for 15 years now. Their blend of progressive house, gothic synthpop, and techno is a dark and brilliant mixture. As Adam Lee Miller mans the controls behind a fortress of synthesizers and samplers, Nicola Kuperus holds down stage left with her ghostly and captivating presence. Those in the crowd who were unfamiliar with ADULT. (those very obviously not dressed to the nines in gothic apparel, eyeliner, and black hair-dye) didn’t quite know what to do with the brutal beats pumping out of the stage. So Kuperus took a grassroots approach and jumped down off the stage to start her own mosh pit for “Let’s Feel Bad Together”. It worked splendidly - soon the place was a complete riot in the crowd while Miller continued driving forward with a steady fist up top. By the end of it, naysayers had been silenced. ADULT. overcame their technical difficulties and threw one kickass party.
Peter Hook is a cornerstone of two great bands. Sure, there is plenty of evidence of historical continuity between the legacies of Joy Division and New Order, but in each of their full culminations, the two were very, very different bands. In the wake of Ian Curtis’s death, the rest of the band found themselves straying from the earthy, post-punk music of their roots into more electronic textures, suiting the early 80s quite well. What we got was Movement, a record that captures the spirit of one band becoming another. It’s a record with all the darkness of Unknown Pleasures and Closer with a beat that you can dance to and an electronic soundscape altogether its own. Then a couple years later, Power, Corruption, & Lies (and its accompanying global hit single “Blue Monday”) showed us a band done with a mourning period and moving at full speed towards a newfound horizon. Now, perhaps for the first time ever with Peter Hook’s tour, we get to see this history acted out in front of us on stage. And for New Order and Joy Division fans in Seattle, there was no price you could put on that last night.
If you don’t believe me, look at the setlist. From the earliest post-Joy Division singles to New Order’s global explosion in 1983, we got to see and hear a small piece of British music history. Unrestrained by his bandmates’ desire to play the same greatest hits set until the end of time in plastic arenas to a faceless crowd, Hook made this tour with The Light an up close and personal affair. Here at Neumos, those basslines in “Age of Consent” shook you to your bones. “Tempatation” was a full on house party with every soul in the building off of their feet. And “Ceremony”, complete with help from special guest Moby on vocals, was a universal shouting match to Heaven - a spiritual experience for all present. For fans of these albums, there was no better way to experience these. Unlike other recent bands’ efforts to play a whole album live and be done with it, Hook’s presentation here was one of love and history. As the set went on, you heard a band evolving. “Everything’s Gone Green” shows us a band on the verge of breaking new electronic territory, while its b-side, “Cries and Whispers”, echoes the post-punk fury of Ian Curtis that never truly died in the band. Hook tempted “Blue Monday” all night. From the Power, Corruption, & Lies sampler “5 8 6″ to using “The Beach” as the interlude before an encore, the tension built up endlessly. But when the time finally came, the place exploded. The now 30 year old hit still blasts in a club like its a day old.
There’s seriously no way to explain how awesome this night was. On top of New Order’s first two albums and nearly every non album single and b-side they dropped through May of 1983, Moby came on to sing Joy Division’s “New Dawn Fades” and “Transmission”. These two especially took the volume in the room to a new level, as they were a complete surprise for all present. Peter Hook gave old fans the truest taste of the golden days they’d seen since the 80s, while giving new fans the closest thing to seeing Joy Division or New Order in their younger days that they could hope for. Altogether, the Factory Pop Showcase was an incredible beginning to Decibel Festival 2013.
Peter Hook & The Light: