Benedict Watson reviews Peter Hook & The Light's Joy Division interpretation at Nottingham's Rock City.
Having grown up hearing my parents playing Joy Division and New Order constantly in the car, when I heard that Peter Hook & The Light were playing both Joy Division albums and an opening set of New Order material at Rock City, I knew I had to go! Peter Hook is the iconic bassist of Joy Division and New Order, a man who’s uniquely melodical bass-playing has had a huge influence on indie music since. Since leaving New Order in 2007 after a feud with lead singer Bernard Sumner, he has formed his own band, named Peter Hook & the Light, who perform covers of Joy Division and New Order songs.
''I wasn’t sure how this would transform into a live performance, but it sounded great''
The night started with six New Order songs. As someone who prefers the brighter sound of New Order compared to Joy Division, this was the set I was most excited for. Interestingly, Hook started with instrumental song Elegia. It wasn’t the upbeat song to get the crowd going that you tend to see at the start of gigs, but it is a song which really shows off Hook’s ability to display emotion in his bass-playing - it’s a song that tells a story without the need for any lyrics! The next two songs were also fairly obscure songs, but the second half of the set was saved for the hits. Age of Consent was the first song of the night to get the crowd moving, and it was followed by New Order’s most popular song – Blue Monday. Essentially an electronic dance song, I wasn’t sure how this would transform into a live performance, but it sounded great! The opening set was finished with Temptation – and the crowd really enjoyed belting out the chorus!
After a short break, the band returned to play through Joy Division’s first album – Unknown Pleasures. The darker and angrier sound of Joy Division seemed to fit Hook’s voice more, with him visibly enjoying barking out some of the lyrics! At times, his voice did really sound just like that of late lead singer Ian Curtis, something which leaves fans questioning why Hook didn’t become the lead singer of New Order – with many considering him to be stronger vocally than Sumner. His stage presence was very good too, with lots of angry pointing at the crowd and many trips to the side of the stage to show off his bass-playing up close to the fans. Unknown Pleasures finished with the eerie and depressing I Remember Nothing, and then it was time for another five minute break.
Joy Division’s second and final album Closer is a bleaker and less hit-laden affair than Unknown Pleasures, and it did get pretty intense at times. The catchy drum beat of Atrocity Exhibition and the bright guitar in Isolation lured the audience into a false sense of security, before being hit by songs like The Eternal – which certainly weren’t cheery! My favourite song on Closer is the final song Decades, and this was a great one to hear live.
''Very much enjoyed by the small section of energetic crowd members in the front and centre''
A final encore of singles left the crowd to go home happy, as some of Joy Division’s biggest hits aren’t actually on their albums! Warsaw was followed by Transmission – which was very much enjoyed by the small section of energetic crowd members in the front and centre. My favourite song of the night, Ceremony, was up next – a beautiful song which, whilst released by New Order, was actually written as a Joy Division song. There were no points for guessing what the final song of the night would be; everyone got involved in singing along to Joy Division’s biggest hit, Love Will Tear Us Apart.
A 29 song setlist is an impressive undertaking for a 66-year old man, and Hook kept a high amount of energy throughout the gig. Whilst I was aware that I wasn’t seeing Joy Division or New Order, and at times the voice did sound different, it was still incredible to see one of the great guitarists of the last 50 years, and to hear the fantastic music of Joy Division and New Order live. Hook is certainly doing a fantastic job of continuing Ian Curtis’ legacy and keeping Joy Division’s music relevant to the modern day.
Edited by: Amrit Virdi