PETER HOOK AND THE LIGHT London o2 Forum 17 September 2016
“It's a covers band”, my less.. partisan friend says. And he's right, of course.
And two weeks after an hour long hits set in Brighton, it's a three hour marathon two-albums-and-b-sides show which sees Hook and his band play the entire of both Joy Division and New Order's “Substance” albums, as well as several b-sides ; missing, thankfully the 10 minute dub remixes.
Were I in, say, a relatively obscure part of the world where New Order have never played, I'd probably think this is the best gig ever. And since I don't, I don't. And whilst it's weird to go from seeing the band he used to be in to the band he is in – both playing many of the same songs - in a matter of weeks. It's a very different experience. It reminds of nothing so much as the Roger Waters vs. Pink Floyd show.
It's also exhausting : there's 31 songs here. And whilst it isn't Cure-style 50 song luxury punishment, the gig – only the third show of this tour – suffers from erratic pacing and a.. well, a bit of a dickhead crowd. It may be the fifth song, you might be 7 foot tall so no one behind you can see anything, and Hooky might be playing “Everything's Gone Green” in London for only the second time in thirty five years, but that doesn't mean you can't use the show to discuss whatever if it is that simply cannot wait. Things like what shopping to get. There's the rest of your goddamn life for that. This is happening. Here and now. In front of your eyes. Pay attention.
Opening with three b-sides may not be the way to keep the momentum up : the crowd clearly want the sort of joyous celebration the perfect gig can offer, and a relatively obscure only-released-in-Belgium thirty five year old 12” b-side isn't going to really get the party … er... “rocking”. Therefore, there's a wait for release. And there's few gigs where “Temptation” is done by 8.30, and where you follow “Blue Monday” with another 24 songs.
Hook is clearly – and rightly – proud of his past. But there's no demonstration of the present except being present. And, with front loading the set with the New Order material – even the youngest of which is a staggering 29 years of age – devalues the power and currency of those songs. The crowd visibly thins during the Joy Division segment : as if the New Order material is the show itself,followed by a really very very long encore. And since I wasn't there in 1977, Joy Division has always been a historical artifact to me : never alive, never tangible, always as distant in my past as The Doors, or The Beatles. Something that was already dead before I felt alive. Whereas New Order to me, was and is a band that are alive, current. Here's the twist : Hook is a widow of Joy Division, and divorced from New Order. Which is why the New Order part of the night feels more valid. I remember then. Of Joy Division, I remember nothing. Joy Division was a memory long before I got to them.
So, for me, the draw is not seeing Hook playing Joy Division. That's like seeing Ray Manzarek doing The Doors. Too long ago. Hook's voice is deeper and darker than Sumners, so whilst the New Order portion sounds an immaculate reproduction, but not quite right – think, if you will, Sean Connery in “Never Say Never Again” - when he sings the Joy Division stuff, Hook could have been the actual vocalist. Even on such underwhelming, lesser songs as “Autosuggestion” and “From Safety To Where?” - the two least songs in the official Joy Division canon – that ultimately provide me with an opportunity catch the night from the back briefly in what feels like, from the audience apathy, a somewhat strange support set placed in the middle of the headline act.
Having never seen any member of New Order, or anyone, perform songs like “Procession” and “State Of The Nation” live, and bearing in mind they're all nudging 60, I'm running out of chances. There's nothing like the sound of drunk people bouncing up and down and simply … enjoying themselves. With “Substance” played in full, the final six songs are an immaculate run, starting at “Transmission”and ending with a heart-break-as-singalong that is “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. It may be one of the greatest songs ever written, but after hundreds of posthumous live performances, this is art as entertainment. Glorious art. But are you not entertained?
Cries And Whispers
Everythings Gone Green
Thieves Like Us
The Perfect Kiss
State of The Nation
Bizarre Love Triangle
No Love Lost
From Safety To Where?
Leaders Of Men
She's Lost Control
Love Will Tear Us Apart