Peter Hook and The Light: Coventry – live review

Peter Hook and The Light
Kasbah, Coventry
16 November 2012

Live review

Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and Closer have been fixtures on my turntable for thirty years, so when I heard that Peter Hook And The Light were kicking off their Unknown Pleasures tour at the Kasbah, Coventry I purchased my tickets well in advance. The band had already played the Still album live and now they were taking Unknown Pleasures on tour. The album is played in order with other Joy Division/Warsaw tracks before and after to pad out the set.

Having grown up with the recordings the first thing that strikes me is the sheer rock energy of the songs; they lend themselves beautifully to a smaller venue like the Kasbah and soon the crowd are boisterously jumping around.

After years of sitting in a darkened room, listening to Unknown Pleasures and contemplating the lyrics the songs are suddenly liberated for me. You get a glimpse of what Joy Division must have been like to see live – not a moribund, navel gazing, intellectual experience, but a fucking great rock band with an intelligence far beyond their years.

Hook carries the vocals well and, after only a couple of songs, you stop even thinking of comparing him to Ian Curtis, so taken up with the atmosphere of the show.

One of the surprises is the way Hook himself appears. He could have approached this return to such an integral part of his life with reverence, as many Joy Division fans do, but he is relaxed, smiling, joking with the audience. He’s having a good time. At one point he tells a member of the audience to ‘stop holding that New Order shirt up or I’ll come out there and fucking kill you’. The only moment I think I notice a slight poignancy cross Hook’s face is when singing the lyrics, “But I remember when we were young” from ‘Insight’.

The audience is made up of all ages. My friend’s 17 year old daughter is there, her t-shirt bearing the classic Unknown Pleasure’s album design, and she loves the gig as much as us older heads. The band are tight. They have two bass players; presumably to give Hook more freedom, but it has the added effect of making the songs heavy.

The last two songs of the night are ‘Transmission’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Could there be better songs to end any gig?

And by this point the audience are in raptures. I use the word rapture carefully. Whilst it was a great rock gig, there was something indefinable, something ‘other’ about it. At times the music was almost transubstantial, hypnotic, elevating, cathartic. Not wishing to sound like a hippy, but it was moving, maaaan!

These are great songs for any age and they can infect the spirit in a shamanistic way. Some may criticise Hook for going it alone in revisiting Joy Division’s work – anyone with that view should go see him live and I defy them not to change their mind.

In a 100 years time rock may well have become a specialist music genre, kept alive by only a small percentage of enthusiasts. If so, the works of Joy Division will be cherished, and recordings of Peter Hook And The Light playing the material will be held in archives just as old folk and blues recordings are now.

They’re on tour now. Go and see them. ‘nuff said.

All words by Mark Ray. You can read more from Mark on LTW here.

Image by Fiona Lee.

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  1. I agree 100%. I went to the gig in Islington this year and was as sceptical as you could get (I only got a ticket to see Section 25) but was blown away. Shouldnt work at all but it does in fine style


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