It was clearly a sold out show at the Corner Hotel on Friday night, as the venue was filled with punters minutes after doors opened. A crowd largely of similar vintage to Peter Hook himself, they waited patiently with drinks in hand as the DJ whiled away the hour with retro alternative tunes. Hook is well known on the alternative and Goth scenes as the former bassist of post-punk pioneers Joy Division, and later electro stalwarts New Order; the band that rose from the ashes of Joy Division after frontman Ian Curtis‘ suicide on the eve of their first US tour in 1980.
Hook made his way onto the stage with a minimum of ceremony and a humble bearing, alongside his band The Light who are best known for recapturing the classic Joy Division and New Order material alongside Hook. Tonight is no exception, as the band play the Substance albums in full, essentially the greatest hits along with some deep cuts of New Order and Joy Division, respectively.
The band opened their New Order set with ‘ICB’ and ‘Procession,’ and it was a lacklustre beginning leaving the listener to wonder what they’d gotten themselves into at the start of this two and a half hour show. The energy from the band was very low, and the crowd weren’t much better. Even Hook, who’d seemed in good spirits prior to the show, didn’t seem to want to be there. Thankfully, the energy stepped up several notches with the rousing intro to ‘Cries and Whispers,’ and the whole venue seemed to be filled with a sense of, “This is more like it!” Perhaps the band just needed a chance to warm up, or maybe the first two songs needed to be cut from the set. Whatever the case, even the lighting plot seemed to become more interesting with ‘Cries and Whispers,’ and the stronger energy was maintained with ‘Ceremony.’
The brilliance really kicked in with ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ though, and it was a powerhouse of a set from there. Two of New Order’s biggest hits followed, with ‘Temptation’ and ‘Blue Monday.’ From ‘Cries and Whispers’ onwards, Hook’s vocal performance was strong, and almost unsettling in its near-perfect mimicry of the late Ian Curtis. Hook has obviously made it his quest to recapture Curtis’ voice. With Hook leading a more post-punk approach to the new wave electro sound of New Order, there was almost a sense of “What if Ian Curtis had lived?” about the approach to the songs. This became even more apparent in songs where Hook’s vocals were coupled with guitarist David Potts’, who not only proved the perfect vocal foil to Hook, but also sounded eerily similar to New Order’s vocalist, Bernard Sumner. Drummer Paul Kehoe was likewise album-perfect throughout, while bassist Jack Bates musical performance couldn’t be faulted, but lacked stage presence. Unlike the rest of the band, Bates remained wooden throughout, only seeming to come to life when he took to the cowbell for ‘State of the Nation.’
By contrast, Hook was lively and playful, particularly when it came to audience members who were taking photos or video on their phones. Hook would angle his guitar so that photos would appear to be taken right from the head, shooting down the neck; or in one particular case, he noticed a punter was taking a selfie, so made sure he got in the shot and made a silly face behind her.
There were plenty of other classics to round out the New Order set including ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle,’ and closing with ‘1963.’ From there, the band took a break of little more than five minutes before returning for their Joy Division set. Interesting, this second set suffered from the same issue as the first: the opening tracks were low energy, ironically lacking in “substance,” and the performance wouldn’t have lost much if ‘No Love Lost’ and ‘Failures’ had been dropped, fittingly enough. However, the Gothic edge appeared with ‘Glass,’ and the lighting plot was more stark and minimalist to fit the darker vibe.
Hook’s voice truly became the ghost of Curtis’ in this set, stirring the emotions of everyone in the room as he explored a range of songs from Joy Division‘s back catalogue. The second half of the Joy Division set kicked in with ‘Transmission,’ and that was when the crowd really started to move. Looking around, it was like a scene from 24-Hour Party People or the Ian Curtis biopic Control as the audience bounced around to the song. The energy only hyped up more for ‘She’s Lost Control,’ carrying on through ‘Incubation’ and the classic ‘Dead Souls,’ later covered by Nine Inch Nails for the soundtrack to The Crow.
In one of the few moments when Hook actually spoke to the audience, he dedicated the quiet and heartfelt song ‘Atmosphere’ to Ian Curtis. As he sang with tears streaming down his cheeks, it was clear that the anguish of Curtis’ passing has never left Hook, and the audience walked the path with him in his grief. The song was obviously cathartic, as by the end of it Hook was ready for the final song of the set, Joy Division’s most iconic piece, ‘Love will Tear us Apart.’ With the energy from both the band and the crowd at an all-time high, the song was executed perfectly, to exultant dancing and rapturous applause. It was a rare opportunity to recapture the post-punk spirit of the late 70s and early 80s, but brought to life beautifully.
There was no encore, and none was needed. The crowd were more than satisfied after 90 minutes of New Order, and an hour of Joy Division. While both sets took some time to get going, the result was absolutely worth it. Hook once again proves that he’s able to bring the spirit of his fallen brother back to life, if only fleetingly, and night after night honour him with a fitting tribute.
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‘Cries and Whispers’
‘Everything’s Gone Green’
‘Thieves Like Us’
‘The Perfect Kiss’
‘State of the Nation’
‘Bizarre Love Triangle’
‘No Love Lost’
‘Leaders of Men’
‘She’s Lost Control’
‘Love will Tear us Apart’
Photos by Bethany Mafrici