Best known as the bassist and co-founder of English Rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook has been an important name in music over the past four decades. In 1976, Hook, along with Bernard Sumner, formed Joy Division. The band, originally called Warsaw, became Joy Division and was comprised of Hook on bass, Sumner on guitar/keyboards, Singer Ian Curtis, along with Drummer Stephen Morris. Releasing their critically acclaimed debut album, Unknown Pleasures, in 1979, unfortunately, Curtis had a number of issues ( epilepsy, depression, marital strife) that eventually led to his suicide on the eve of the band’s first American tour in May 1980.
Following Curtis’ death, the band reformed as New Order and achieved critical and commercial success emerging as a three-piece with Sumner assuming vocal duties. The new band soon recruited Morris’ girlfriend, Gillian Gilbert, to round out the line-up as keyboardist/second guitarist. Debuting with Movement in November of 1981, throughout the decade, New Order proved itself as one of the ’80s most critically acclaimed and influential bands incorporating elements of Club/Dance music and electronics into their Post-Punk sound.
Taking a hiatus between 1993 and 1998, in 2001 Phil Cunningham (guitars, keyboards and synthesizers) replaced Gilbert, who took a sabbatical because of family commitments. Then, in 2007, Hook, in a far from friendly split, left the band over what apparently were creative differences with Sumner. While New Order continues to record and tour with Tom Chapman on bass and both Gilbert and Cunningham as members, Hook has formed his own band, Peter Hook and The Light. Officially coming together in 2010, a year later Peter Hook and The Light released the 1102 2011 EP, followed by 2011’s Unknown Pleasures – Live In Australia, and most recently, 2015’s love album So This Is Permanence.
Scheduled to release a new memoir, entitled Substance: Inside New Order, in October, Hook and his band continue to tour in 2016. On a pleasant Thursday evening of September 22nd, Peter Hook and The Light (featuring Hook on bass, Hook’s son – Jack Bates – also on bass, Andy Poole on keyboards, Drummer Paul Kehoe, and David Potts on guitars), began its 27-date 2016 North American Substance: The Albums of Joy Division and New Order Tour with the first of two performances at New York City’s legendary Webster Hall. The purpose of the tour is to revisit both Factory Records Substance compilation albums from New Order, released in 1987, and Joy Division, released a year later. The celebratory tour will continue with dates in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico through the end of November 2016.
The evening began with New York Post music critic Hardeep Phull welcoming the band to the stage. He also told a story about the origins of the New Order Substance collection. He explained that Factory Records’ head-honcho Tony Wilson wanted to be able to play New Order’s singles on the CD player of his new Jaguar. The ensuing “best of” compilation included the 12-inch versions of all their singles, as well as a number of B-sides. Unfortunately, the reality of the “business side” of the music business was brought to light when he went on to describe Wilson’s vision as a way “to make everyone rich. It didn’t because the revenue was used to pay attorneys.”
Scheduled to appear on stage with no opening acts at 8:15PM, Peter Hook & The Light took the crowd at the iconic venue by storm. Giving the mostly middle-aged crowd (along with the retro-’80s wannabees and junkies) exactly what it came for, Hook and his band delivered two sets of top-notch music, nostalgia and danceable good fun.
Set One featured New Order’s Substance tracks, all of which featured wonderful rhythms, soaring melodies, and erudite lyrics. During the performance, Hook didn’t speak much, he let the songs do most of the talking. When he did address the crowd, he said, “Good evening!” A fan screamed out his name and the names of his former bands. Hook then responded with a simple, “Oh. That’s why we’re here. I’m glad you told me.” Hook and his compatriots delivered a powerful sixteen “classic” song set that, for most performers, would have been a full concert, and, for most fans, would have been more than enough of a show. The set could best be described as one continuous highlight. The highlights of the first set were the amazing versions of “Lonesome Tonight,” “Procession,” “Temptation,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “Blue Monday,” “Ceremony,” “Thieves Like Us,” “True Faith,” and “1963.”
After a short intermission, during which fans crammed around the merchandise stand to purchase signed posters and signed t-shirts (before the rush at the end of the show), Set Two began. Set Two featured Joy Division’s Substance tracks song cycle. Though the band’s career was much shorter than that of New Order, the Joy Division set was almost as lengthy as the New Order set. The Light played a fifteen song set that covered everything that one would want to hear from the group’s canon. If it were possible, the standing room only audience was even more amped to hear the Joy Division tunes than they were for those of New Order. Another set chock-full of highlights, the best moments of Set Two were the opening song; “No Love Lost,” “Transmission,” “She’s Lost Control,” “Komakino,” “Dead Souls,” Incubation,” “Atmosphere,” and of course, the evening’s ending song; “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
As with the songs in the New Order set, Hook and his band members took turns singing the songs. The songs were vibrant and alive, not museum pieces. They were presented as live versions of Joy Division’s achievements. Hook, though not the most accomplished singer, delivered his previous band’s songs in good fashion while Potts’ lead vocal turns and Bates’ backing vocals brought the smoother melodies that the lyrics needed. The decades old songs from both bands were given a new life, but not a new direction or feel. Hook and The Light stayed true to their essence. This was more than a tribute show. This was more than a tribute to the departed Curtis. This was a celebration of both bands and of Hook’s legacy. The Joy Division songs had the original Post-Punk bite. The New Order songs featured the booming loud bass, swirly synthesizer beats, as well as powerful guitar.
As the evening came to a close, the fans who had not had the foresight to purchase their memorabilia prior to the start or during intermission crowded around the merchandise table (with sweat oozing from their pores from dancing and singing their way through the evening). Other thrilled fans were heard commenting that they “spent my whole life waiting for this. Now it’s over. Damn! I’ve got to come back for tomorrow’s show.” Still, others, as they left the grand ballroom of the fabled venue, were heard singing the catchy “Up, down, turn around/Please don’t let me hit the ground” chorus of “Temptation.”Photo credit: Christine Connallon Photography