Peter Hook & The Light
10 October 2017
by Jason Leigh
There was no support band tonight but that did not matter as Peter Hook & The Light were onstage for a mammoth two and a half hour playing time. They arrived onstage just after the 8:30pm advertised starting time and finished just before 11:20pm with only a short interval between sets. This tour was billed as a performance of the New Order and Joy Division compilation albums Substance so both were played in their entirety along with additional contemporary songs.
The only member of those bands present tonight, Peter Hook, and his four-piece band consisting of long-serving collaborator David Potts and son Jack Bates were dressed mostly in black. Hooky was wearing a Boy branded T-shirt sporting a back sized avian logo that was probably coincidental in that it brought to mind Nazi ephemera and was a subtle reminder of the origins of the Joy Division name. Perhaps a sly wink to the diehard fans in the audience tonight? Later at the end of the night he took off the shirt, handing it to and rewarding a front row member of the audience.
With the almost false start of Hooky proclaiming “Alright, let’s f**k!” and then pointing out a surprised audience member’s raised eyebrows, the band started their New Order set with “Dreams Never End”. The line up of drums, keyboards, guitar and twin bass was an alternative to the traditional makeup of a band with father and son changing between 4 and 6 string electric bass played mostly at the same time.
By halfway through with “Blue Monday” and “Confusion” especially it was almost New Order Karaoke as the band were becoming all too reliant on pre-recorded backing while Hooky was singing and making seemingly random punches at the electric drums with the occasional strum of the guitars. “The Perfect Kiss” really showed how inappropriate Hooky’s vocals were for this material and although Bernard Sumner (singer for New Order) sound-alike Potts was present, it may have been cheating to have him take lead vocals. Most of the audience knew all the words but Hooky may have needed some reminding as evidenced by the A4 lyric book propped on stage in front of him although other than the occasional page turning it was not noticeable that he even made reference to it.
Although I had misgivings about the performance of the New Order songs, the multigenerational audience were thoroughly enjoying it, joining in for the “Up, down, turn around” chorus of “Temptation” as though it was a football chant, and their arms raised in unison during “True Faith”. Hooky pointed out and asked for an overly enthusiastic member of the audience to be removed, stating, “All you beautiful people and that guy like a bulldog chewing a wasp” before the set ended with “1963” and there was a ten minute intermission.
Although the familiarity of the songs got me through the first set, the second set of Joy Division songs was more cohesive in terms of the band’s performance as well as thematically. It felt as though the previous set had been a warm-up or run-through for the main event and that they had actually been their own support act. Hooky’s vocals were a far more appropriate replacement for departed singer Ian Curtis than they had been earlier. There seemed to be an almost military precision in contrast to the New Order songs especially those with a dominant pre-recorded backing track where when the whole band chimed in with their guitars the songs devolved into chaos. It was almost as though the first set was more punk than the influenced-by-punk Joy Division.
The energy from the audience that I thought may have waned after nearly an hour and a half returned during songs like “Twenty Four Hours” and the more familiar “Transmission” and “She’s Lost Control”. Hooky dedicated the iconically funereal “Atmosphere” to Ian Curtis and then ended with the audience pleasing “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. This audience would have been satisfied by a set of either New Order songs or Joy Division and tonight they got both.