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Peter Hook and the Light, 02 Academy Leeds, 1st July

Peter Hook, Cool Britannia Festival 2018 (c) J Russell

Reviewed by Jacob Ainsworth (19, Instagram @jacob.ainsworth studying Film & English Literature at the University of Manchester.)

I’ve seen Peter Hook & The Light play many times throughout my adolescent life. I’ve seen the band play in dingy, sweat-soaked clubs, I’ve seen the band play in the eerie, church-like architecture of Manchester’s Albert Hall, and I’ve seen them play in a farmer’s field somewhere in the depths of rainy Scarborough (with technical mishaps, drunken chants for Peter Crouch and tiny toilet facilities where you could literally run into members of the band stood at the urinal). Needless to say, I’ve had a range of live experiences with the ex-Joy Division/New Order bassist. Some great, some good, some just plain weird. Watching Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook & co last night in Leeds was certainly one of the great times.

The first thing to mention about Hooky’s Leeds date was the much-welcomed variety of audience members. Yes, at a concert featuring Joy Division and New Order material you’d expect a middle-aged audience (largely male too), and this has been the case with many of his shows. However, at the 02 Academy last night, there were a large number of youngsters – and not just alternative-looking young people either. I noticed many girls my age who wouldn’t have looked out of place sat at the ‘popular table’ of my old school’s sixth form common room, as well as a number of lads donning the usual Pretty Green/Stone Island dress code you’d expect to see at a Liam Gallagher show. During songs like Shadowplay, a track featuring feedback-laden guitar, a rumbling bass line and a Neu-esque drum pattern, I saw a sizeable mosh pit form, girls and boys my age grinning from ear to ear, jumping in time to the music. There was a visceral quality to the experience of watching raised hands reaching out as Hooky – low-slung bass guitar intact – sang the brooding words of the late Ian Curtis, half-empty pints of Carlsberg volleying into the air.

In the shadowplay, acting out your own death, knowing no more /

As the assassins all grouped in four lines, dancing on the floor

(Shadowplay, Unknown Pleasures, 1979)

Of course, a common misconception with Joy Division is that they are simply a melancholic, proto-Goth outfit, a reputation often unfairly given to them due to the suicide of Ian Curtis overshadowing the group’s actual music. Whilst there is some truth in this notion (the second side of LP Closer in particular being, in effect, a musical suicide note), Hooky’s live performance fiercely challenges it. The Light emphasise Joy Division’s punk roots, often cutting down outros of songs – a subtle choice which works to help their set flow – and exaggerating the bass-heavy drive of the music. Whilst songs like Disorder and She’s Lost Control certainly have an unnerving effect on their listener, Hooky’s playing style leads the songs in a brutish, domineering fashion, with frequent collaborator David ‘Pottsy’ Potts adding wonderful nuance to Bernard Sumner’s wiry guitar solos. The sound echoing around the 02 Academy last night was strong, insistent and very, very loud. In other words, pretty much perfect.

The cars screeched, hear the sound of rust /

Metallic blue turned red with rust

(Interzone, Unknown Pleasures, 1979)

At his current shows, Hooky plays Joy Division albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer in full – a treat for any post-punk fan. The barbed, fast-paced sound of tracks Wilderness and Interzone lead the audience into an unsettling world of alienation and urban decay, but an unsettling world in which you can still somehow jump up and down to the beat. Surely, this is no small feat. Joy Division’s music is music of introspection, yes, but also music you can dance along to. I believe this to be the key allure of the band, certainly the reason why generations of listeners continue to be hypnotised by the Manchester four-piece’s unique sound. I also believe that Hooky completely recognises this – to the delight of his audiences. His set is a celebration of Joy Division’s tragically short-lived studio career, ranging from raucous guitar interplay to funeral-like keyboard washes – the one constant being Hooky’s wonderfully distinctive bass sound. I couldn’t help but smile as the ‘nascent viking bass God’ (as the late Tony Wilson so poetically put it) kicked upwards into the air as he strummed his blood-red Yamaha bass guitar. The sound is recognisable – and he bloody well knows it.

Overall, it was a fantastic set. Not only did we get to hear two classic albums in full, but we also got a lovely little opening set of New Order rarities and singles, plus an appreciated inclusion of What Do You Want From Me?, the punchy sing-along hit accredited to Hooky’s 90s side project Monaco. The duet between Hooky and Pottsy works incredibly well; the pair share an evident chemistry, and compliment each other’s vocal range. Even during this warm-up set, I noticed many happy faces singing along (especially to the Ibiza-inspired musings of Vanishing Point, a stand out track from perhaps New Order’s best LP, Technique).

My life ain’t no holiday /

I’ve been through the point of no return /

I’ve seen what a man can do /

I’ve seen all the hate of a woman too /

(Vanishing Point, Technique, 1989)

Hooky’s son Jack was also back on stage after a long tour playing bass with The Smashing Pumpkins – a welcome return marked by noticeable affection between father and son. I went to the gig with my own dad and there was definitely something special about dancing along to the music, father and son, as we watched Hooky and Jack share a smile during the yearning bass solo of New Order classic Regret. The night was rounded off with an encore that everybody in the audience was craving, the whole venue chanting the immortal words of Love… Love will tear us apart… Again… Every time this happens, there must be a bit of Ian Curtis left in the world. I can’t help but feel like, somewhere, there’s a trench coat-wearing Macclesfield lad, carrying his lyric sheets to rehearsal in a carrier bag, smiling at the fact that his words are still sung.

Hooky, keep doing these small gigs. They’re needed.

Set List:

Elegia

Dreams Never End

Procession

Regret

What Do You Want From Me?

Vanishing Point

Atmosphere

Disorder

Day Of The Lords

Candidate

Insight

New Dawn Fades

She’s Lost Control

Shadowplay

Wilderness

Interzone

I Remember Nothing

Atrocity Exhibition

Isolation

Passover

Colony

A Means To An End

Heart And Soul

24 Hours

The Eternal

Decades

Digital

Ceremony

Transmission

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Editor
Editor of LLR since 2005

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