“I saw New Order in 1984 when I was a student, you know,” says the man standing next to me as we wait eagerly, only minutes before Peter Hook & The Light are expected to start their set.
It isn’t 1984, it’s February 2019. Unlike the man next to me, I know I almost certainly won’t see Peter Hook stood on stage with New Order in my lifetime. I never got the chance to see New Order, only getting into their music quite some time after their messy split, but tonight I can hear their iconic songs played by one of the founding members.
“When you’re looking at life through a strange new room, maybe drowning soon- is this the start of it all?”
These are the words Hooky growls, stubbornly facing the crowd of punters, his Yamaha bass guitar slung low like a weapon in his hand. Behind him, anguished waves of guitar feedback introduce The Light’s opening set of Joy Division material. I feel the hairs on my arm stand on end during the distorted screeching, then growing to sharp
goosebumps as the rhythm section slowly kicks in. The precise, mechanical style of Stephen Morris’ drumming that I know all too well from their records is captured, and everything else flows with it. Angsty, gloomy- Hooky’s bass fills Rock City. I can only stand in awe.
I find myself jumping to the bass hooks of ‘From Safety To Where’, then hypnotised by the longing “Colony”. Hooky ends the opening by bridging the gap between Joy Division and New Order with “Ceremony”. The performance is mesmerising, oddly feeling akin to a funeral-like retrospective, yet simultaneously a joyous cele
bration of things to come. I’m transfixed as I watch Hooky play at the stage edge- we make eye contact and I smile widely. He grins back. No words have to be said.
“Nothing in this world can touch the music that I heard when I woke up this morning…”
As the band launch into New Order’s 1989 LP, ‘Technique’, the dreary Nottingham night outside the venue is forgotten. We’re now in Ibiza, the location in which New Order recorded the album. The sunny influence is beautifully evident, with punters’ faces lighting up as the club classic ‘Fine Time’ begins. An acid house beat, check. Tongue-in-cheek lyric, check. Keyboard grooves, check. Goat noises? Check. It’s a complete 180-degree turn to the post-punk intro, brimming with warmth and shameless joy. For the next 40 minutes, David ‘Pottsy’ Potts’ guitar splashes colour and vibrancy onto the crowd with Hooky’s bittersweet melodies right aside him. They frequently beam at each other. Somehow, I remember a time before I was born.
“Maybe I’ve forgotten, the name and the address… of everyone I’ve known, it’s nothing I regret.”
“Round 3!” Hooky declares when he starts to play ‘Republic’, New Order’s 1993 release. The album opens with ‘Regret’, a favourite amongst fans for its iconic guitar part and plaintive vocals. The crowd goes crazy. Jumping, dancing, singing- all love shown for New Order’s legacy; overwhelming and wonderful. The lyrics pierce me; I begin to wonder how many people here tonight are looking for ‘a place they can call their home’. After a heartfelt solo and final chorus, ‘Regret’ comes to end, followed by what is admittedly the weaker album next to ‘Tec
hnique’, but is brought to life when The Light add their much-needed energy to it.
I’m a student. I never saw New Order in their prime, let alone Joy Division. Despite this, the gig at Rock City made me feel like I had. The whole venue singing along to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is exactly why Peter Hook and The Light must do what they do. They’re keeping the legacy of both bands alive by playing intimate venues for cheap ticket prices. Because of this, I’ve been able to celebrate the work of the late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, but most importantly, the music he and his bandmates created.
Jacob Ainsworth, bassist/vocalist of Border Control