When you have a catalogue of songs as superlative as the one by Joy Division and New Order, you can do two things: play them and not play them.
This has been the main reason for Peter Hook to complain about his demise from one of the most important bands in dance-indie-pop music of the last 35 years: He wanted to play all those songs that seemed forgotten for the rest of New Order. He then decided to form a band to play them.
And once you decide to play those songs, you have two choices. Well, one: play them like your life depends on them.
And that’s exactly what he has been doing since 2010.
No mystery there, but this is an important point, since Peter Hook has been accused of mere and sheer mercantilism with his band’s catalogue. Yes, he’s making money out of it, no problem with that, he was an important part of all that, he was right there and then, in the middle of the process, Joy Division and New Order wouldn’t have been the same without his contribution. He has all the right to do so.
I’d be mad at Hook if he didn’t focus the way he has in this enterprise. But I can’t be. I’ve seen three of his gigs with The Light playing the back catalogue of JD and NO and every time there was something new. New sounds, new ways, updates in sound and performance, you name it. Hook and his band believe in what they do.
This time, at Paradiso in Amsterdam on Monday, April 18th, they started playing a New Order set with classics like “Ceremony”, “Procession”, “Dreams Never End”, “Age of Consent” and “The Perfect Kiss”.
After a short break, Hook then dedicated “Atmosphere” to Howard “Mr. Nice” Parks, who just died the night before, and with whom he toured some years back. And then, they played the usual set the other way around: Starting with Closer and ending with Unknown Pleasures, plus the inevitable gems “Dead Souls”, “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.
Every single song was played like the band was a steamroller, giving an accurate image of what Joy Division could’ve done with time, of how good they would’ve become and how they could’ve balanced their urgency onstage with the density of their records.
I remember a local “critic” in Barcelona, when Hook and Co. were only playing Unknown Pleasures and how he got it completely wrong when he claimed that the bassist “was absorbed by the rock fury of his band mates,” and how he was expecting a gig as close as possible to the records.
Some years ago, when the box Factory Communications was released, Hook admitted in the notes about “Digital” that the band wouldn’t have lasted long if they had released a record that was the same as what they were playing onstage. And the same goes for the other way round. The best thing of gigs like this is that the band respects the music but offers a different approach to it.
The live experience is about connecting with and attracting the audience, of emptying yourself, of winning your fans over, again and again. And Peter Hook achieved that six years ago, and still achieves that every single night.