Peter Hook and The Light @ Birmingham – live review

Peter Hook and The Light
02 Academy 2, Birmingham
30th May 2012

Not sure about Peter Hook’s The Light?

Are they a covers bands? Or are they a band doing cover versions?

I wasn’t too sure about Hooky’s latest venture when I first heard about them doing dates in the US last year.

Well let’s put any lingering doubts about Peter Hook’s The Light to bed. I don’t know what The Light are in terms of being a new band putting out their own material, while playing the Joy Division back catalogue. And I don’t care.

Before Hooky fell out with Barney and went off and put together The Light, the majority of the songs he’s currently airing have remained, for the most part, unplayed live over the past 30 years.

Of course there have been plenty of cover versions, notably by Moby and Bauhaus, as well, doubtless, as many tribute bands. And of course the occasional dipping back into their past by New Order themselves. But getting the chance to see an original band member doing an entire set based around Unknown Pleasures, really is something that has not been an option.

Rather than follow the current vogue for album retrospective shows taking the running order straight from the record, we get a couple of early Joy Division songs to kick things off and the stripped back spiky edges to the songs seem to set the band at ease.

Obviously it’s all about Hooky. Standing centre stage, wearing, but not always playing his bass ”“ while his son Jack takes up the bulk of the four (and occasionally 6) string duties. Curiously understated in jeans trainers and polo shirt, it’s almost as if Hook is not looking to be the centre of attention, but knows he can’t avoid it and can’t help but throw in a few rock god poses, almost from force of habit, you suspect.

Hooky actually does a very passable job on vocals, although his upper register can’t quite match Ian Curtis’. But pass he does. With flying colours. In fact his vocals seem to get stronger as the night goes on and Hooky cuts loose with more of himself and less of the studied delivery to fit into the songs we all know so well.

Just as Hooky seems to be setting in he pauses, to tell the crowd that it was here in Birmingham that Joy Division played their last gig. The rueful look that crosses his face tells you all you need to know about the bittersweet nature of these gigs.

The songs are superb and Hooky is clearly pleased to be playing them again. But he’s also stepping in for the man who should have become the rock star, he so wanted to be.

A cruel irony. But hearing songs like ”˜Disorder’, ”˜Shadowplay’ and ”˜New Dawn Fades’, I suspect I was not the only one to feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising.

In another ironic twist, the one downside to the evening was a poor mix that submerged much of Hooky’s vocals, particularly in the middle section of the set. Ironic given that Hook has been quoted as saying one of his abiding memories of that Joy Division gig 3 miles across town at the University, was of a poor sound.

The rest of The Light ”“ who deserve a mention for their uniformly excellent delivery ”“ played through it with aplomb. In fact such was their enthusiasm that faster songs such as Interzone were played at a frenetic pace ”“ no click track precision ”“ The Light are not a carbon copy band and that energy gives them a far more authentic feel.

Which is the overriding feeling of the gig ”“ this is the heart and soul of Joy Division, while the other two look increasing like accountants. If you have any doubt at all about this band or the squabbles that preceded it ”“ forget them now.

Although I only saw Joy Division once, it feels right. As does Hook’s screaming cathartic take on ”˜Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Which was not dedicated to Ian Curtis as I ”“ and I suspect may others ”“ expected. Instead Hooky left it until the following song, the last of the night to mention his friend, before a stirring version of ”˜Ceremony’ prefaced by Hooky, his voice drenched in emotion and relief, signed off with “Let’s hope it won’t be another thirty fucking years Birmingham.”

All words by mackthehack. You can read more from him on Louder Than War here. 

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2 comments on “Peter Hook and The Light @ Birmingham – live review”

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  1. As a long time (since early teens) fan of Joy Division and New Order (who I saw many times in the late 80’s and Early 90’s – sadly a bit too young at a fresh 43 for JD concerts. I like this – i feel that Peter Hooks vocals are a bit too brash in the video presented, but at the same time aknowledge that he knows more than i will ever do about this. Like it – going to Cockpit Leeds in Nov – just booked tonight. Joy Division is a staple diet of my car CD and has been since i could drive one! Saying that Hacienda 30 has been in there for a few weeks. But its horses for courses – isn’t it? heh

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