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  • Jack Starr

Peter Hook & The Light Review – as Close as it Gets to Seeing Joy Division Revived

It’s hard to think of a Northern English act as iconic as Joy Division. Though they only existed for four brief years, between a chance meeting at a Sex Pistols concert in Manchester in 1976, to Ian Curtis’s untimely death in 1980 – their music and iconography has gone down in history, resonating with generations of rock music fans. The artwork of their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, featuring an image of radio waves, has become a symbol for alternative and gothic culture.

Founding member, bassist Peter Hook, has taken it upon himself to revive the live experience of Joy Division, with a new band, dubbing themselves Peter Hook and the Light. Founded in 2010, following Hook’s split with New Order, they tour and play material from the back catalogues of both Joy Division and New Order. The Light features Hook on leading vocals for all songs, and his son Jack Bates on bass guitar.

There has been some controversy around the split between Hook and his former bandmates – reportedly, they are no longer on speaking terms, and New Order still exist and tour separately. Some fans question the legitimacy of a Hook-led project without the approval of Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert. However, it is safe to say that Hook has proven himself – even at the age of 67, he and his band perform with energy, passion and dedication to what made these songs so iconic in the first place.

The opening set was a selection of New Order tracks: overlooked gems ‘Everything’s Gone Green’, ‘Vanishing Point’ and ‘Thieves Like Us’, followed by their fan-favourites ‘Temptation’, ‘True Faith’, and of course, the immortal dance hit ‘Blue Monday’. Though it’s initially jarring to hear Hook on vocals, he pulls it off well, carrying a similar vocal range to both Sumner and Curtis – after all, he did contribute vocals on a few early tracks by both groups, singing lead on ‘Dreams Never End’ and ‘Doubts Even Here’. This set was an essential mood-boost, getting the crowd-pleasing synth-pop hits out there before the Joy Division gloom sets in.

The main content of this tour was a complete performance of both Joy Division studio albums – Unknown Pleasures, and Closer – in full. These records are impeccable post-punk gothic rock, unmatched and a must-listen for any serious music fans, and to hear them performed live is an experience to behold. Closer particularly resonates – this album was recorded shortly before Curtis’s suicide, and so, its content was never actually toured and performed live. This celebration tour gives Hook another chance to perform it, both to the fans who missed out at the time, and to the legions of new, younger fans, born too late to experience it the first time around. The audience demonstrated this well – it is exceedingly rare to see such a mix of fans of all ages and walks-of-life.

The attention to small details was commendable. Before going on to play Unknown Pleasures, the venue played Kraftwerk’s foreboding electronic anthem ‘Trans-Europe Express’ over the PA, just as Ian Curtis demanded back in the day in order to ‘set the tone’. Hook’s greatest merit is that he is really doing everything he can for the fans, to give them the most ‘authentic’ and enjoyable experience possible.

The encore set was made up of Joy Division’s non-album singles, ending on their eternal anthem, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – with almost the entire audience singing along to every word.

‘It’s great to be in Sheffield’, he remarked after the set. ‘My daughter went to uni here, to Hallam – and she passed, no surprises there!’ That remark scored a big laugh. New Order recorded their original demo tapes in Sheffield in 1980, at Cabaret Voltaire’s Western Works studios on Portobello Street (now part of the university).

If you are a fan of Joy Division and New Order, and you haven’t given Peter Hook a chance yet, you definitely should – it’s the closest experience you’ll get to the ‘real thing’, and even as he gets older, Hooky isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.


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