Peter Hook & the Light Channel The Essence of New Order and The Ghost of Joy Division
Peter Hook was born Peter Woodhead in February of 1956, in Broughton, Salford, England. Hook is best known as the bassist and co-founder of English rock bands Joy Division and New Order. In 1976, Hook along with Bernard Sumner formed Joy Division. The band was originally called Warsaw, and was comprised of Hook on bass, Sumner on guitar and keyboards, singer Ian Curtis and drummer Stephen Morris. Within two years, the band released a self-produced independent EP called An Ideal for Living. Soon the band was signed to Factory Records and in 1979 released the critically acclaimed Unknown Pleasures. Unfortunately, Curtis had a number of issues (depression, marital strife, epilepsy) that eventually led to his suicide on the eve of the band's first American tour in May 1980. The group's second and final album, Closer (Factory Records, 1980), featuring the single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was released just two months later. Propelled by the single, the album became the band's highest charting release.
Following Curtis' death, the band decided to soldier-on, reforming as New Order and achieved critical and commercial success. The new band emerged as a three-piece with Sumner assuming vocal duties and soon recruited Morris' girlfriend Gillian Gilbert to round out the line-up as keyboardist and second guitarist. Its debut album, Movement (Factory Records) was released in November of 1981.
Throughout the '80s, proved itself as one of the decade's most critically acclaimed and influential bands incorporating elements of club/dance music and electronics into its rocking post punk sound. "Blue Monday" which was released in 1983 is a perfect example of this hybrid sound. In fact, the song is ranked among the best-selling 12-inch singles ever. New Order also became known for a number of "classic" modern rock songs including but not limited to: "Ceremony," "Procession,""Sub-culture," "Bizarre Love Triangle," "1963," "60 Miles an Hour," "Someone Like You," "Waiting for the Sirens' Call" and "People on the High Line." During its career, New Order also released the classic Factory Records albums Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) which was included in the top 100 albums of the 1980s lists in both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork Media, Low-Life (1985) and Technique (1989).
In 1993 the band went on hiatus, a time during which the members worked on various individual projects. In 1998, New Order reunited. In 2001, Phil Cunningham (guitars, keyboards and synthesizers) replaced Gilbert, who took a sabbatical from the band because of family commitments. In 2007, Hook left the band over what apparently were creative differences with Sumner. The split was far from friendly. New Order continues to record and tour with Tom Chapman on bass and both Gilbert and Cunningham as members.
From 2007 through 2010, Hook basically worked as an itinerant and traveling bassist. He can be heard on Perry Farrell's Satellite Party Ultra Payloaded album (Columbia Records, 2007) on the songs "Wish Upon a Dogstar" and "Kinky." He is featured on "Dirty Thirty" and "Blunts & Robots," from the Crystal Method's 2009 Tiny E Records album Divided by Night. He recorded with the group Freebass featuring bass players Mani (the Stone Roses) and Andy Rourke (the Smiths). The trio released the album It's a Beautiful Life in 2010 on Haçienda Records. During this time Hook also became an author. In October 2009, Hook published his book about his time as co-owner of the Haçienda, How Not to Run a Club (It Books).
In February 2010 at his new club FAC 251, in Manchester, Hook opened the new venue along with his band, the Light. On May 18, 2010, on the 30th anniversary of Curtis' death, the Light performed a set of Joy Division songs featuring the entire track list of Unknown Pleasures. At the time the Light was comprised of Hook (bass), Hook's son Jack Bates (bass), as well as Andy Poole (keyboards) and Paul Kehoe (drums) and Nat Wason (guitars). In 2011, Peter Hook & the Light released the 1102 2011 EP on Haçienda Records. Subsequent releases include: Unknown Pleasures · Live In Australia (Pylon Records, 2011) and So This Is Permanence (Live Here Now, 2015).
In January 2013, Hook published another book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (It Books) an autobiographical tome retelling the story of the seminal band. In July 2013 Wason left the Light and was replaced on guitar by David Potts. Hook also has another memoir scheduled for release called Substance: Inside New Order. The book, from Simon & Schuster, should hit the shelves in October 2016.
On a pleasant Thursday evening in late September, Peter Hook & The Light began its 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 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 highlight 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 Ne Order set. The Light played fifteen song set covered everything that one would and could 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 bands' 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 and swirly synthesizer beats and powerful guitar.
As the evening came to a close and the fans who hadn't 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), others 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."
Photos by Christine Connallon