Peter Hook, along with friends and family, breathe life into New Order and Joy Division’s back catalogue in spectacular fashion, Getintothis’ Michael Booth reflects on an intriguing and hugely engaging evening.
Having taken to the road last year to perform Joy Division’s two seminal studio albums to considerable acclaim, Peter Hook & The Light kicked off the UK leg of their latest tour at the East Village Arts Club tonight, this time celebrating New Order’s first two albums, Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies.
No-nonsense Hooky chose to dispense with a support act by opening up for himself under the guise of Slaves of Venus, which appeared to catch much of the crowd off-guard; “Bit quiet in here tonight” he joked, having stood at the mic for ten seconds or more with scarcely a murmur from the onlookers.
With his heavy-set frame clad in an Iron Maiden t-shirt, the crowd could perhaps be forgiven for initially mistaking him for a roadie.
The warm up proved to be a treat for those who missed the previous tour as Hooky and Co. performed a choice selection of Joy Division tracks.
Musically they stayed very faithful to the source material and while Hooky couldn’t be more different to Curtis in terms of stage persona, it surprisingly didn’t prove too jarring. Hook possesses a rich baritone and while not a natural lead singer he certainly never let the songs down.
For those not familiar, The Light features Hook’s son Jack Bates who, in addition to inheriting his father’s looks, has been endowed with no shortage of musical talent. Both play bass in that signature attacking style, with junior tending to cover the more traditional bass line parts and Poppa Hook finger picking in the higher registers.
Occasionally they switched parts or played perfectly in unison together – it proved an exciting two pronged attack, flanked by David Potts on guitar, Andy Poole on keyboards and Paul Kehoe on drums, all handling the material as if it were their own.
The Joy Division tracks Passover and New Dawn Fades set the crowd simmering but proceedings never truly erupted, suggesting there is perhaps a subtle delineation between Joy Division and New Order fans. It wasn’t until the final track Shadowplay that the atmosphere began to get enjoyably messed up.
After a short hiatus the band rejoined us to unleash New Order’s debut album Movement. There was a time when Hook himself was quite dismissive of this record, having been written in the vacuum left behind following Curtis’ suicide.
Well, as a certain lyric goes “a sound formed in a vacuum may seem like a waste of time“. Clearly in the fullness of time Hooky has come to see the merit and importance of this album. There was no shortage of affection here as band and crowd united to celebrate this monolith of the new wave era.
Throwing out the album’s original running order, In A Lonely Place opened things up, followed by Ceremony and Procession. With more emphasis placed on the bass element these tracks felt more percussive and energetic than what lies brooding on the original album – a wholly appropriate interpretation for Hooky and great for a live setting.
The synths came more to the fore as Dreams Never End continued the set, its pop sensibilities rousing a portion of the crowd that had hitherto been rather subdued. Truth and Senses continued this thread, delivering the electronic riffs that New Order were to embrace more fully going forward. Movement so clearly is that bridging album between the old and new order.
Theoretically, New Order’s second album Power, Corruption & Lies would present more of a challenge to Hook as vocalist. It was on this album that the band’s electronic pop sound began to evolve and Bernard Sumner’s delivery took on that fragile choirboy timbre that he had until then suppressed.
If Hook could manage an approximation of Ian Curtis’ vox for Joy Division tracks and perform perfunctory renditions of Sumner’s transitional New Order vocals, that certainly wouldn’t be true of later-era songs when Sumner would sweetly drift up an octave.
At this point a natural choice would’ve been for guitarist David Potts to take over on vocals. He and Peter Hook enjoyed a considerable amount of success as the duo Monaco, delivering the mainstream hit What Do You Want From Me? with Potts singing in a pop style much akin to Sumner.
Perhaps it was a missed opportunity as Hook continued on the mic for the second half, frequently dropping down an octave when his vocal range demanded it on tracks like Age of Consent with its soaring synth lines.
This minor gripe aside, Power Corruption & Lies was performed with admirable conviction. As an album Movement occasionally falls between two stools but PC&L is a full on New Order and arguably contains some of their finest material.
568 went down a storm and was followed up with a mesmerising rendition of the beautiful abstract ballad Your Silent Face, its opaque lyrics suspending time and hanging in the air with infinite meaning, somehow intimate and anthemic at the same time. We can only say it again: beautiful.
Having been treated to a handful of Joy Division tracks and two complete New Order albums the gig was well into two hour territory before the encore and we’d have forgiven the band had they started to flag but there was no sign of it. They re-emerged to deliver a hugely energetic take on Temptation which to our ears never sounded so good and inevitably the colossus of all crowd-pleasers Blue Monday.
The band left the stage of the amphitheatre style venue with every tier charged with positive energy.
For longstanding fans of New Order it is naturally a little sad that its founders Hooky and Sumner have decided to go their separate ways, with Sumner touring separately as New Order along with original keyboardist Gillian Gilbert.
That said, Hooky’s take on the material is putting an interesting new slant on some iconic songs. The tour was well received in America and as the band continue through the UK we wish them the very best and thank these Mancunians for venturing into our territory to give us first listen.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Keith Ainsworth.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Joy Division Reworked by Heritage Orchestra & Scanner: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Edwyn Collins: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Steve Hackett & Genesis Revisited: Philharmonic, Liverpool