Peter Hook Live review by Rob Johnson
What makes some legacy shows better than others? How can an artist pay tribute to their past without the whiff of cash in? The stink of greed? For anyone wanting an example of how to relive past glories and do it right, look no further than Peter Hook & the Light.
Despite being 67 years old, former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook is still one of the hardest-working men in show business, so much so that the band serve as their own support act at a packed Sheffield Foundry. Taking to the stage with his typical gruff demeanour and no-nonsense approach, Hook and his band run through a mini set of New Order tracks including stone-cold classics such as ‘Temptation’ and ‘Blue Monday’ – the latter thumping so loud out of the speakers that the whole room shakes. Hooky was never a vocalist in either of his bands, but these songs never veer into cover version territory or into imitation. Hook has his own vocal style, his own on-stage presence, mainly consisting of staring threateningly into the crowd before breaking into a beaming smile and nodding along to the rapturous applause approvingly. He isn’t Ian Curtis and he isn’t Bernard Sumner. But he emphatically is Peter Hook, and that is absolutely enough.
After this thundering start, the whole band leave the stage and we have a short interval. This night isn’t about New Order, however. No, Hooky and his band are here to run through both Joy Division albums from start to finish. They begin with ‘Disorder’ from the band’s seminal 1979 debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’. On that LP, legendary Factory Records producer Martin Hannett created a sparse industrial sound that became Joy Division’s trademark. Hook beefs up many of the compositions here to make them more suitable for a Saturday night at a student union and the result is an incredible reimagining of some of the more meditative songs (with versions of ‘Wilderness’ and ‘I Remember Nothing’ particularly effective) and more faithful renditions of tracks like ‘She’s Lost Control’ and ‘Shadow Play’ – the latter song being a set highlight with guitarist David Potts (formerly of Hook’s side project band Monaco) shredding on guitar as he does all night. The rest of The Light is made up of Hook’s son Jack Bates on bass, former Monaco drummer Paul Kehoe behind the kit and sometime Doves collaborator Martin Rebelski on keys. As a collective, they make for a formidable group of performers and the adoring Sheffield audience respond in kind. It is clear early on that this frontman and this band mean business.
Joy Division’s second album ‘Closer’ is a claustrophobic, nightmare-inducing record as evidenced by tracks such as ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, ‘Isolation’ and ‘A Means to an End’. If this part of the set sags a little it is only because these songs are so emotionally exhausting that hearing them all together in such an intimate venue is a soul-sapping experience. The band plays as if their lives depend on it and the tracks clearly resonate with Hook who often finds himself staring wistfully into the middle distance as he growls his way through Ian Curtis’ bleak and alarming lyrics.
Following a brief interval, the band return to the stage for the final time for an incredible run-through of ‘Dead Souls’, before a cover of New Order’s ‘Ceremony’, dedicated to Hook’s daughter who went to university in Sheffield, brings the house down. It’s a stunning song and it’s note-perfect here.
For the set closer, there can only be one, of course. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is quite simply one of the greatest songs ever written, and to hear it played live by one of the people responsible for its creation is truly a privilege. The crowd goes apeshit. Everyone in attendance sings along to the classic refrain. And then suddenly, after three bone-crushing hours, it’s all over. Any suggestions that Hooky is slowing down now that he is literally a pensioner can be cast to the wayside. This is an artist with plenty more to offer. Don’t miss it.