This past weekend, Miami saw Peter Hook and the Light take the stage at Grand Central to perform the music of Joy Division. It marked the start of their Southeastern U.S. tour, which features the band playing opening act to themselves with the music of New Order before playing Joy Division’s two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer in their entirety. It was a longtime coming, seeing as the original Joy Division never made a tour of the U.S. due to the shocking suicide of the band’s lead singer, Ian Curtis, in 1980.
OK, so this incarnation only features Joy Division’s original bassist. Still, even though it was far from the original Joy Division line-up, no former member of the Manchester post-punk act could have pulled off a tribute better. Hook took vocal duties for Curtis, and his baritone was an excellent match. There was an additional bassist on stage, Jack Bates, who traded parts with the frontman, though Hook had some key moments to solo on his bass in his signature style: down low on his fret board. It worked especially well during the opening set of select New Order songs to get the crowd warmed up. Hook’s voice, however, was a poor stand-in for New Order’s singer Bernard Sumner. A drunk guy singing along in the crowd behind me sounded better.
This opening set included some prime cuts from the late ’80s New Order, including tracks from Low Life and Brotherhood. Guitarist David Potts took vocals on one song, which fit the set better (sorry, Hooky). Rounding out the band was Andy Poole on keyboards and Paul Kehoe on drums. The band was super tight, although the levels weren’t great at the start, with drums dominating over the melodies. Still, the live show was incredibly faithful. As such, none of the original members were missed. It was a marvelous performance that really felt like a celebration of the music. Hook ate up the adulation of the crowd, which included many who donned variations of Joy Division and New Order T-shirts. Hook showed no shame in embracing his star appeal, putting himself on display at the edge of the stage on more than one occasion to give the audience as close a view as possible of his playing key parts of many songs.
I spoke to him a few weeks earlier for an article in the Miami New Times. Speaking via phone from his second home in Mallorca, Hook explained his group has spent a longtime with the music. They have been performing much of it since 2010, when he formed The Light to pay tribute to the music of Joy Division in the band’s hometown of Manchester on the 30th anniversary of Curtis’ passing. Eventually a tour resulted, as did tours and performances of New Order’s albums, including Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies. Now comes the 35th anniversary of Curtis’ death. Peter Hook and the Light have already performed West and East Coast tours of the U.S. featuring Joy Division’s music. This current tour marks their first southern US tour.
When I spoke to Hook about his status in New Order, he was pretty blunt about the relationship: he only communicates with his former mates through lawyers. “They masquerade as New Order now, which I disagree with because they aren’t New Order. It’s like me calling myself Joy Division. That’s how I look at it. I wouldn’t have the gall to do it. But I suppose that’s what happens when you bring out a group like Bad Lieutenant that flopped so badly, and then you have a massive financial recession.” The latter is a jab at Sumner trying to start a band outside of New Order with Bad Lieutenant, which released an album in 2009 that only made it to number 70 on the U.K. pop charts.
You can read more regarding his feelings about New Order as well as his reflection on Curtis in this article for the Miami New Times, which appeared in print last week. Jump through the headline below:
We also spoke about Peter Murphy, the frontman of Bauhaus, who, when I spoke to him in 2013, had this to say about Joy Division: “Bauhaus Was the Seminal Moment in That Time; Joy Division Was Not” (click through the quote for more on that). After reading that article, Hook seemed to laugh it off. “I know him very well,” he offered. “I just read, actually, the bass player [David J] from Bauhaus’s book, and Peter, unfortunately, does not come across very well, and in that book, I must say, there does seem to be a lot of lead singer syndrome, and what he said about Joy Division in your article just simply isn’t true, is it?”
Murphy had been playing “Transmission,” a Joy Division song, live for many years. He was going to play it in Miami, but scratched it off his set list that night. Maybe my article had something to do with it. Again, Hook was amused and said there is no bad blood between them. He said, “I mean, it’s funny. I’ve known him over the years quite a lot because some of our road crew used to work for him. I’ve seen him quite a lot … He asked me on stage before that article to play ‘Transmission’ with him, when I DJed with him. He’s been playing Joy Division songs for a long time.”
Hook did relay that he met Murphy under some rather comic circumstances, having kicked him out of a Manchester club when he was a bouncer where Murphy was slated to perform with Bauhaus. You can read about that incident and more in this article on the Miami New Times Music blog:
Peter Hook and the Light continue their tour in the south with a show in Atlanta tomorrow. For more tour dates, which concludes the America tour with a visit to Mexico City, visit this link. Some U.K. dates will follow after this tour.
All photos taken by Igor Shteyrenberg at Miami’s Grand Central, April 10, 2015.