PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT @ The Astor gets 9/10

Peter Hook & The Light @ The Astor
Monday, October 16, 2017

9/10

Peter Hook, the seminal bass player from arguably two of the greatest and most important bands of all time, has been giving the people what they want in recent years with his band The Light, and enjoying every minute of it. And this year’s Substance tour was his best yet, with a truly epic performance for the ages.

As part of the highly influential post-punk legends Joy Division, and then (following the tragic death of singer Ian Curtis) forming New Order, who went on to create a legacy of their own with a very different synth-based electro sound, Hook has lived through some incredible times.

He parted ways with New Order in 2007 amidst controversy, and went on to form his own band. He’s been playing more intimate venues and working his way through both his former bands’ entire back catalogues.

Following tours of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and New Order’s Low Life & Brotherhood albums, this tour was the most ambitious yet, as he tackled both bands’ Substance compilations, with a few extras thrown in, dividing the night into two sets.

They started off with the New Order songs, walking in to a packed crowd of mostly older punters, who were in surprisingly boisterous form for a Monday night. That’s the sort of love and dedication these bands’ music inspires.

He commenced the set appropriately with Dreams Never End, the first song off New Order’s 1981 debut Movement, which sounds very reminiscent of The Cure, and is one of the few songs Hook actually sang lead vocals on. He’s solid enough and he can carry the tunes, but his voice is quite different to Bernard Sumner’s unusual higher pitch. Guitarist David Potts’ voice is more suited, so he sang on many tracks as well.

Underrated early single Procession sounded great, with Hook’s son Jack Bates (an accomplished bassist in his own right) also playing bass in the band adding a depth to the incredible rhythm section, and causing his dad to beam with pride alongside him.

Four tracks in they got stuck into the album proper, starting with the mighty Ceremony, which sounds bigger than ever with The Light, and to whom Hook dedicated the song to for the last night of their Australian tour. The chorus really took off and set the room alight.

Temptation soon followed and was even better. A huge track that had the whole room dancing and singing along to “Oooh you’ve got blue eyes, oooh you’ve got green eyes…” For a man who’s written more memorable bass lines than any other bassist, this has to be one of Hook’s best. He locked into the groove, striking a pose, legs apart, guitar upwards, fingers up the neck, with that unmistakable tone.

Following up such a highlight immediately with the classic Blue Monday was almost too much! This Monday was anything but blue, as dancing and merriment reached fever-pitch. But it just didn’t let up, reminding you how many brilliant tunes New Order had, as they stormed through the shimmering positive vibes of Thieves Like Us, the 80s euphoria of Shellshock, the beautiful Bizarre Love Triangle and the anthemic True Faith.

A brief intermission allowed everyone to collect themselves after such an amazing set, and prepare for the second half of the show. It seemed like that would be hard to top, especially given New Order’s music is that much more upbeat and dance oriented, but to think that would be to underestimate the sheer power and emotion of Joy Division’s music.

Darker, denser, and more suited to the heavy guitar attack of the band, the songs are also more suited to Hook’s voice, and he does a great job of faithfully recreating Curtis’ unique monotone. From the might of Shadowplay and Isolation (both welcome inclusions not on the Substance album) the mood and intensity in the room changed and moved up a level. The double bass attack really underpinned the whole thing, creating a constant throbbing ‘base’ for all the melody to follow.

Starting the album proper was the snarl of Warsaw, before the jerky riff of Digital with it’s catch-cry chorus “Day In! Day Out!” saw some heaving moshing action up front. It has to be said, the band do an incredible job playing these songs, and they really sound better than ever before, much fuller and more dynamic than the old recordings, apart from missing the irreplaceable voice and presence of Curtis.

And once again, so many classic songs, one after the other. Transmission had everyone dance, dance, dancing to the radio. She’s Lost Control had 40 somethings flailing around like carefree, intoxicated teenagers, though Hooky’s voice was a bit lost in the mix.

But the closing trifecta was almost unmatchable, with the raucous distortion of Dead Souls – the song famously covered by Nine Inch Nails on The Crow soundtrack – followed by a heartfelt rendition of the amazingly powerful Atmosphere, which Hook touchingly dedicated to Irish comedic legend Sean Hughes, who he’d just found out had passed away.

There was only one way they could possibly finish the night, and finish it in style they did, with a monumental version of one of the greatest songs of all time, Love Will Tear Us Apart. It was an incredibly impressive performance taking us through so many of the best tracks of two legendary bands that remain as relevant as ever, driven by one man’s basslines.

With Substance 1987 and Substance 1988 out of the way and Hook promising to keep chronologically going through his back catalogue, all things point to Technique and Republic being next. This Substance performance will be hard to top.

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Linda Dunjey Photography

 

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