Peter Hook and the Light perform Joy Division’s “Substance”

At the risk of seeming redundant or uninspired, I’ve got one more post motivated by that lengthy New Order retrospective I indulged in on Monday. Although, this time around, I’m focused on their previous incarnation as the formative post-punk ensemble Joy Division.

Of course, Joy Division no longer exists in a band sense. There music lives on. But the parts of the whole have moved on, both in musicianship and beyond.

As has been well-documented, and at the risk of repeating myself, the enigmatic frontman Ian Curtis took his own life back in 1980, on the eve. of their U.S. tour. In the aftermath, remaining members Bernard Sumner (vocals/guitar), Stephen Morris (drums), and Peter Hook (bass) continued as New Order, drafting Gilliam Gilbert to handle keyboards. And then around ’07, Hook chose to exit the band, due to creative differences. He fell into a few outifts – Revenge, Freebase, Monaco – before landing at the aptly named Peter Hook and the Light.

It’s that last act that I’m fixated on for this go around.

With his current outing, Hook’s charted a different path from his former partners. Rather than crafting new original material, he’s instead chosen to celebrate the past, resurrecting prior New Order and Joy Division albums in their entirety as rousing live performances.

As Peter Hook and the Light, he’s joined by his son Jack Bates, also on bass, and former Monaco members David Potts (guitar) and Paul Kehoe (drums). Martin Rebelski, who’s played with Doves, became their fifth member on keyboards and synths.

Anyway, that’s the nuts and bolts of the backstory, minus a few not-so-kind criticisms from the remaining members of New Order – rights issues and such. That makes sense, since Hook is performing both New Order and Joy Division albums, injecting his own personal spin on years and years of classic material that he helped author. He also handles all the vocals, which can be a bit strange when it comes to Sumner’s parts, which is essentially all of New Order.

But since the focus here is Joy Division, I’ll let that discussion slide, in favor of Hook’s spirited take on Curtis’ lyrics. Hook can actually sing, so that’s a plus. And his more rough and gruff intonations actually feel and sound quite faithful to those Joy Division roots.

I’ve actually seen Peter Hook and the Light a few times – the “Movement/Power Corruption & Lies” tour in ’13, the “Low Life/Brotherhood” tour of ’14, and the “Substance: The Albums of Joy Division and New Order” tour of ’16. I continue to kick myself for missing the renown Joy Division focused “Unknown Pleasures/Closer” tour of ’12. But that one sold out before I had a chance to secure tickets. Bummer, too. I heard from friends that Moby, who’s a big fan, came out for those L.A. shows and did vocals on a few tracks.

For the “Substance” show at the Wiltern , which took place way back in September of ’16, Moby did us a solid and showed up again to lend vocal assist to two tracks, “Transmission” and “Ceremony,” the latter of which is technically a Joy Division song, one of the last written by Curtis. New Order re-recorded it and released it as their first single, since it never saw a proper studio master in its original incarnation. Although, you can get a live version of it from the Joy Division “Still” compilation from ’81.

Looking back, I ultimately prefer Hook’s take on Joy Division versus New Order’s approach to the material. Nothing wrong with Sumner’s interpretation. But it does sound like an interpretation, essentially how the New Order of today would tackle the Joy Division of yesterday. That’s probably why New Order only performs specific Joy Division tunes, those best suited to their synth-rock aesthetics.

Hook, on the flipside, remembers that the distant past was steeped in a post-movement of punk spirit. The music was edgier, leaner, and razor sharp in its severity. It often got pegged with the goth label. But it was just sparser in its emotion and darker in its mortality, still managing to ratchet the intensity in uninhibited serrations. And it was rebellious, angry yet informed, anxious yet determined, and still had some smarts.

I feel that Hook gets that part of Joy Division, more so than Sumner. But that’s not a diss on New Order’s part. It’s just a difference of approach and interpretation, which might harken back to said creative differences. Who knows, really? At least, there’s a wealth of Joy Division material still being performed live by its original surviving members. And after 40-something years, we should count ourselves blessed.

Given all that, here’s a selection of Joy Division tunes covered by Peter Hook and the Light. There’s the two Moby fronted tunes, the aforementioned “Transmission” and “Ceremony,”
the latter of which had some mic problems, so his vocals aren’t audible for the first third. That’s unfortunate. But it does get sorted.

I’ve also got the relentlessly driving “day in, day out” rhythm of “Digital, ” a slightly sinister rendition of “Shadowplay,” which technically isn’t on the “Substance” compilation from ’88 (but who’s complaining), an unfortunately abbreviated recording of “These Days,” and an encore inclusion of the classic “Dead Souls,” which I originally posted in celebration of “The Crow” soundtrack.

And although not the best recording, since the vocal mix is too low in parts, I thought it would nonetheless be interesting to toss in Hook’s version of “1963,” which is another New Order favorite. It’s not often performed, since it was originally released as a B-side to “True Faith” in ’87. So it’s inclusion is always welcome (by either act).

Peter Hook and the Light perform Joy Division’s “Digital” at the Wiltern on 09.24.16.

Peter Hook and the Light perform Joy Division’s “Transmission” at the Wiltern on 09.24.16.

Peter Hook and the Light perform Joy Division’s “Shadowplay” at the Wiltern on 09.24.16.

Peter Hook and the Light perform Joy Division’s “These Days” at the Wiltern on 09.24.16.

Peter Hook and the Light perform Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” at the Wiltern on 09.24.16.

Peter Hook and the Light perform Joy Division/New Order’s “Ceremony” at the Wiltern on 09.24.16.

Peter Hook and the Light perform New Order’s “1963” at the Wiltern on 09.24.16.

Here’s the setlist for the Joy Division portion of Peter Hook and the Light’s “Substance” performance at the Wiltern Theatre on 09.24.16. There’s actually two playlists, the first being the actual Joy Division recordings, and the second, Peter Hook and the Light’s live versions. I figured it be cool to hear them side by side … similarities, differences, and everything in between.

Also, “Ceremony” appeared in the New Order set, as did “1963.” So I chucked those at the end of the list.


Peter Hook & the Light:

Joy Division:

New Order: