There's no question in my mind that Peter Hook loves what he does.
Since 2010 he and his band The Light have maintained
a steady stream of live gigs all around the world playing songs from
Hook's back catalog as part of Joy Division and New Order, and the excitement and enthusiasm with which the band plays all of these
songs is pretty awesome to see. Starting with "Unknown Pleasures", Peter Hook and the Light have steadily worked
through all of the Joy Division and New Order catalog up to
1993's release "Republic", playing epic three hour sets that are a true celebration
of both bands.They're pretty incredible shows and I've thoroughly enjoyed every time I've seen them.
In 2018 Peter Hook and the Light were touring around the "Substance" albums, with Hook and the band playing both the Joy Division and New Order greatest hits compilations in their entirety which promised to be a great evening of music. The original "Substance" album from New Order was a monumental collection of tracks, pretty much the essence of the Eighties sound distilled into one album. It features singles like Blue Monday and Bizarre Love Triangle that revolutionized the dance floor and changed the way that people experienced electronic music, alongside other tracks like True Faith and The Perfect Kiss that defined the band's sound and solidified New Order's place in popular culture. And not just content to be a career defining collection of tracks, it also features all of these songs in extended form, 12" versions that spoke to the band's deep connection with club culture. I mean, seriously, there is an argument to be made that "Substance" is the greatest compilation ever released.
to be outdone, the Joy Division "Substance" collection is equally
impressive in it's own way, bringing together a
series of songs that show a rich and steady growth and discovery within the band which would eventually lead them to their later work as New Order. And while these songs may not necessarily have the popular associations that New Order's work do, Joy Divisions' music still remains just as significant to their legion of fans on a more personal and intimate level.
After a short break they came back
and started the Joy Division set, and while it has a different
sound and feel, it's still just as amazing, just as perfect as the
earlier New Order material. Joy Division followed a much more
traditional vocals, guitar, bass, and drums kind of sound, it's a bit more
raw, a bit more primal, and that sound works especially well in a live
setting, but there's also a feeling that the Joy Division material has a
greater immediacy in the current musical landscape given how
influential that sound has been on the Post-Punk genre, how much it's
left a mark on so much of today's music. As much as I love New Order's
work, it's very much temporally locked in my mind as the sound of an era
(even though it was completely distinct within that era). In contrast,
the Joy Division material sounds almost timeless, and many of the songs
sound as though they could have been written last month, last week, or even this
morning. A track like Transmission is still just as resonant and just as
vital now as it was upon release in 1979, and in that way it makes
perfect sense that the band would play the Joy Division material later
in the set, because it sounds so much more current and contemporary.
And of course forgetting sound or influence or anything else, there's no denying that it's just amazing to be able to hear Joy Division songs being performed live. Not many people had the opportunity to see them in concert, their career was pretty brief, and New Order went a looooooong time before they were willing to play any of the Joy Division material at shows, so the chance to see Peter Hook playing Dead Souls or Atmosphere or anything else from the band still feels like an exciting opportunity.
Over the course of both sets Hook and the
band built on the songs, expanding them and finding new grooves and new elements that not only
added to the music but also offered chances for the band to shine
and highlight their own skills and talents. It was a pretty incredible
evening, equal parts celebration of the songs and a rediscovery and exploration of music that I've loved for
decades. The Perfect Kiss sounded amazing with extended solos for the band to play, Blue Monday felt even more monumental than I know it to be, and Transmission was a rolling wall of sound ready to crush anything in its path. And while some people would argue against changing the songs live I would counter that argument saying that change breathes a new life into the work, giving the audience something new to enjoy. Add the solos, extend the breaks, add another verse if you think it fits, that's the kind of recreation and revision that makes live music so special.
And I think in many ways that Peter Hook recognizes that about his audience, I think he's fully aware of the fact that these are more than just songs for people, and in realizing that he approaches performing them with the respect and appreciation that the songs deserve and he plays them knowing that they're an important part of people's lives. And that should be easy for him to do because it's perfectly clear that every one of these songs is an important part of his life as well. I mean, he literally lived all of them, right?
Of course he gets it.