Peter Hook and The Light: Roundhouse, London — Review
It was ashamedly with a bit of reluctance, and out of an obligation to my father first and foremost, that I found myself spending a Monday evening watching former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook relive his glory days by covering not one, not two, but three of his past albums. However it is certainly not with regret that I look back on that night at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm.
Accompanied by a backing band featuring the drummer and guitarist from Monaco (an interesting choice of name, given Joy Division were originally titled Warsaw), the short-lived act Hook formed after his departure from New Order in 2007, Hook began the night by covering ‘Movement’, New Order’s first album, which has a mix of the post-punk guitars of Joy Division and hints of New Order’s revolutionary synth-pop sound.
For the first part of the set, Peter rotated guitar and bass duties with his son Jack, who followed his father in performing music much as I’ve followed mine in listening to it (by far the more noble pastime). Jack has adopted his dad’s own style of playing his bass very low, almost at his knees, but his father has moved his guitar slightly higher over the years. Meanwhile the drummer, who had an acoustic kit in front of him, used the electronic pads to his sides when he needed a more processed sound.
Despite the jumpy music, the crowd were quite subdued at the start, perhaps needing to be coaxed back into their old ways — or perhaps just waiting for the Joy Division part of the set to begin. The audience was mixed enough age wise to make my 19-year-old self feel fairly inconspicuous; there were a fair few people clearly born after Joy Division’s heyday, though if I was a middle-aged bald white man hiding from the police, the Roundhouse might have been my safest refuge.
The venue itself had a friendly community atmosphere that sets it apart from many London venues, which, regardless of history, seem to nowadays have lost their originality to the hundreds of commuters (including myself) and commercialised music industry which sees the old theatres of sound merely as shells with capacity for people. The walls were adorned with tales of past acts, told in a down to earth tone, informing the reader without making them feel like a tourist.
However, welcoming vibes aside, I did feel a bit like an outsider. The venue has been cherished for years, not necessarily by locals, but by select groups of music fans: The Ramones’ gig at the Roundhouse has long been seen as kick-starting the punk era in the UK, with inspired members of bands such as The Clash, The Damned and The Sex Pistols in attendance. The Roundhouse has played home to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Mötorhead and The Doors, and also housed a gig Mick Jagger put on featuring John Lennon, Eric Clapton and of course Jagger’s own band The Rolling Stones. So walking into such a vital piece of rock and roll history, surrounded by people who had experienced it all firsthand, and were, in a way, returning home, felt a bit strange; as if I was being let in on a secret.
Joy Division themselves had had aspirations of playing there; towards the end of the set Hook reminisced about driving past it with the band, talking about how one day they’d be on that stage: “I hope…” Hook said, before trailing off “well this is the closest I’ll get anyway”. Maybe he’d been about to jest to his former band New Order, or imagine his departed friend Ian Curtis watching on.
Much as Hook was returning to his roots as an artist with this gig, the bright red t-shirt he wore boldly designated him the title “Salford Lad”; clearly Manchester was still his home, even if his Mancunian accent had diluted slightly after thirty years of sporadic touring of the world. It was in Manchester that Joy Division formed in 1976, but it was just before their first US tour that lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide, triggering the change in name of the act to New Order, and a gradual move towards a synth-pop sound that would revolutionise music.
However, in 1991, things began changing, as lead singer Bernard Sumner began working with Johnny Marr, the first time any of the band had started making music without with the rest of the group. Then in a radio interview in 2006, Hook announced he was leaving the band. Hook opened the Roundhouse gig by announcing we were about to “take a trip down memory lane… make sure you don’t get mugged” Assuming Peter wasn’t warning the revellers about the literal dangers of their inevitably drunken stumble home, this was a reference to his acrimonious split with New Order, where he might’ve felt “mugged” when in 2011 the remaining members of the band formed a company which had the rights to their old music, reducing Hook’s royalties to a tenth of what they were before.
Since then, Hook has formed this current band, and at the Roundhouse, they, like Hook, moved swiftly on from New Order. Next up was a cover of ‘Closer’, the album Joy Division released after Ian Curtis’ death. New Order don’t perform Joy Division songs, so seeing Peter Hook and the Light in concert is the only chance fans have to hear the old numbers live. Due to the less processed sound of Joy Division, the drummer switched to mainly playing the more conventional acoustic kit, and Hook Jr and Sr, rather than swapping between bass and guitar, both picked up basses, as Jack shadowed his father and Peter stopped playing in the moments where he sang the verse lines.
Hook’s vocals were particularly impressive given he is primarily a bassist, and if Ian had been watching on, I’m sure he would have been proud. The vocal tone was more brutal and prominent than Curtis’ soft baritone and the atmosphere picked up notably as something suspiciously resembling a mosh pit formed in front of the stage. The musicality of the act impressed my dad: “They’re tighter, less raw than Joy Division were”. Whilst that was unsurprising to me as the band had years of professional experience and practice, what was a shock was that they still captured the edge of Joy Division: “It’s still there, definitely, the emotion is all there.”
As the band moved onto ‘Unknown Pleasures’, Joy Division’s first album, the crowd got more and more involved, singing along to ‘She’s Lost Control’, the Mancunians’ final single. Partway through ‘Day of The Lords’, Hook had to stop, and start the song again, saying “you’ve got me too excited London… fucking calm down I’m nervous enough already” which of course only prompted more cheers of support. Whether Hook had actually been nervous, or was just hiding his prohibitive emotion at having to sing the chorus of “Where will it end” given the context of his friend’s lines, I wasn’t sure.
By the time of the encore, the room was euphoric, as Mark Lanegan, formerly of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, joined The Light on stage to sing ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Dead Souls’, which Hook introduced by admitting “one of the perks of this job is you get to meet your own heroes.” Lanegan’s scratchy but melodic voice was perfect for Joy Division’s material and the two songs left the audience wanting more of the American musician.
Inevitably, the band closed with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, the hit which catapulted Joy Division into the mainstream, and Ian Curtis to posthumous stardom. “You’ve probably been waiting for this all night” grinned Hook, before launching into the iconic bassline. The cover, if it can even be labelled as such, was perfect; the atmosphere rose to a crescendo and some older rockers (fortunately for me, not including my dad) were seen raving in the seated area. Scenes.
“All the gigs I’ve been to this year and the last one was the best”, my dad murmured as the evening drew to a close. For reference, he’s seen both Muse and Foo Fighters in 2017. Whilst I may have lacked the nostalgia of Joy Division’s zenith that would have forced me to rank Peter Hook and The Light above the Devon and Seattle rockers as live performances, I was blown away. I had heard an echo of British rock and roll history, and I had loved every minute.
Article: Alex West
URY Music Editor: Alex West
If you want to catch Peter Hook and the Light in concert, they’re playing Rockaway Beach Festival which will be held in Bognor Regis from 12–14th January 2018. They then embark on a tour of the US and Canada, before returning to the UK for Rebellion Festival (2–5th August, Blackpool Winter Gardens) and Kubix Festival (10–11th August, Herrington Country Park, Sunderland)
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