Over the last few years, Peter Hook has made it his mission to perform the complete works of Joy Division and New Order to allow fans to hear songs that may have never been performed live before and this latest tour brought the albums Substance by New Order and Joy Division to the O2 Academy in Liverpool on a drizzly Friday night. As Substance is the singles collection for both bands, the audience was going to be in for a treat as some of the biggest JD and NO hits were to be played.
Playing two albums in full is no easy feat which is why Hook asked the audience to arrive promptly at 8:15pm so he could cram everything in over a packed two-and-a-half hours of music. The show began ominously as Hook took stage to the ghostly drums of ‘In A Lonely Place’, then having set the mood, he launched into two darker NO songs in ‘Cries and Whispers’ and Procession.
Although if this sounded like a slow start, this was only because of what Hooky had planned next as he played the opening riff to ‘Ceremony’ and set the audience dancing for the rest of the night. ‘Ceremony’, ‘Everything’s Gone Green’, ‘Temptation’, ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Confusion’ – all huge audience favourites that might have all been reserved for an encore were all played by Hook in succession a mere twenty minutes in to the show with no introduction or flash, leaving the ecstatic crowd in anticipation of what Hook had up his sleeve to top this.
Hook then took the mood down a peg with an emotional rendition of ‘Thieves Like Us’ which was my personal show highlight before launching into another string of hits including ‘The Perfect Kiss’, ‘Sub Culture’, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, and finally ‘True Faith’ which had a huge reception to finish the first set with.
Though an almost-perfect NO set, what I struggled to get my head around how flatly it went down with the audience. Sure, there were a few people dancing and bobbing their heads, but they were in the minority and it was so quiet near the front where I was with a constant stream of people seeming to go to the bar. Hook himself was also very quiet during this set except for the occasional “Thank you”.
This was especially confusing since the Joy Division set that followed a short interval had a much larger audience with much of the crowd thrashing to the punk and Hook in a much chattier mood.
It occurred to me that this is perhaps why people go to see Hook nowadays and why he himself tours. The rest of New Order are actively touring as an outfit (having played a sold-out gig at the Olympia just last year) and perform an exciting show full of classic hits and new material but seldom play Joy Division songs apart from ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. This gives Hook an edge to allow people to hear songs that maybe they’ve never heard live before. In many ways, the legacy of Joy Division may still be bigger than New Order are.
This shouldn’t detract from how good the Joy Division set was though. As Hook played a selection of their best work including ‘Warsaw’, ‘Transmission’, ‘She’s Lost Control’, and many others before finishing up in style with a touching rendition of ‘Atmosphere’ as a tribute to one of Hook’s Liverpudlian friends who had tragically passed away just a week earlier, before closing with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ to the mass excitement of the crowd who continued chanting it long after Hook had left stage.
Though Hook was only the bassist in New Order, with such a big personality he was a more than capable front-man with his voice well suited to the angst-filled material of Joy Division and his bass playing skills alone are in another league to anyone else. If anything, he’s a cult icon more so than anyone else in New Order, with chants of ‘Hooky!’ sweeping the audience after every song. Smartly though, while he sang on many New Order tracks, he had also recruited a guitarist with a voice like Bernard Sumner’s which gave the New Order material a softness and authenticity that sounded especially great on tracks like ‘Confusion’ where Sumner’s voice is starkly in the foreground.
To speak of authenticity, you also couldn’t help but note the dark intimate venue of the O2 paired with minimal lighting, music, and swear made the gig feel even more special as your mind wandered to imagine if this is what it would have been like to see Joy Division or New Order nearly 40 years ago.
If you ever needed reminding of why Joy Division and New Order were such seminal and pioneering bands, then you needn’t look further than Substance and tonight Peter Hook did justice to both of those albums with a high-energy performance that was as beautiful as it was danceable.
Image Credit: Peter Goodbody