Review - Peter Hook And The Light

Marc Nash dug out his bucket hat and wellies, turned his TV to the Sky Arts channel and watched Peter Hook And The Light at the Isle Of Wight Music Festival 2023...

Joy Division are my favourite band bar none. I will defend them, both their music and their behaviour to the hilt, even though they haven’t been in a position to make music since 1980 with the suicide of their lead singer Ian Curtis. I even had an ‘EducatingOmand’ on their debut album. After 1980 the band morphed into New Order, had huge chart hits such as “Blue Monday” and I quite liked them, though being more poppy I didn’t feel quite the same compunction to protect their honour in argument. The band became increasingly fractious, over those twin poles of musical differences and money, until the bassist Peter Hook was kicked out. After a brief stint at going his own way, Hook became the bassist in his own JD/NO tribute band, Peter Hook and The Light.

I follow Hooky on Twitter. He posts frequently, mainly news about upcoming gigs, praise for recently played gigs and some old JD/NO memorabilia photos and gig posters. Fair enough, a lot of us post our brand wares. So I took the opportunity (the plunge?) Into the murky waters of tribute bands treading that thin line between homage and parody. I sat down to watch a broadcast of Hooky’s house band playing the hits on stage at this summer’s Isle Of Wight music festival. I had never seen JD live, (though I did see NO at a university May Ball and seeing as it was held at an all-female college I cannot and could not in good faith defend the band’s pre-gig behaviour). But I have listened to a plethora of bootleg tapes of JD gigs, culled and curated from stalls on Camden Market back in the 1980s. Joy Division were so fleeting, so evanescent, that I probably had recording of about half of all the gigs there ever played. (I even wrote a play devised from the tapes). The sound for Peter Hook and The Light was perfect, unlike the constantly failing amps and muddy mixes for JD back in the 1980s. However, good sound quality couldn’t mask a certain soullessness to the music. The backing band were homage, Hook himself was parody.

Yes all the hits were faithfully reproduced, with Hook on second bass, leaving him free to point vaguely above the heads of the crowd and pull rock star poses stood on amps and at the lip of the stage. These seemed particularly empty gestures to me. But it was his tuneless vocal delivery, sounding like a Manc Prince Far-I who smoked 50 a day, which massacred the songs. The intonation and emphasis was all wrong, he inserted an expletive in one song, which Ian Curtis who was a poet in his lyrics would never have done. Indeed you appreciate Curtis’ delivery all the more in its absence and the songs, while catchy, just don’t reproduce their majesty with Hook’s gruff growl. The only one that does is “Ceremony”, which was NO’s first release, when Hook and Sumner were awkwardly shy in taking over vocal duties and you could hear this on the original record. Hook manages to produce an uncertain delivery which at least honoured the original. But after the final song, Hook took off his shirt, let his paunch droop and saluted the audience. Ian Curtis would never have done any of that. I can’t defend this performance or even any reason why this tribute band should exist. Peter Hook is parodying Peter Hook. Nobody needs to see that or see his stomach. His book on the rise and fall of The Hacienda club is far more entertaining, probably because Hook does musical decline and fall very well.

You can find Sky Arts on Freeview Channel 11 in the UK

Marc Nash is on Twitter as @21stCscribe. His books are available from Amazon here.

Image - Sky YouTube/photo by Callum Baker
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