Review: Peter Hook & The Light – Limelight, Belfast
Boasting membership of both Joy Division and New Order among his accolades, Peter Hook now tours with his band The Light, incorporating numbers from both groups in his setlist. The five-piece are fresh from touring Europe and Australia this year and have packed out Belfast’s Limelight for an intense three hours of hits and fan favourites from Hook’s extensive back catalogue. Honouring the spirit of Ian Curtis whilst estranged from his former New Order band mates, the legendary bassist is used to carrying the weight of such a legacy on his own – he doesn’t even require a support act for tonight’s early show.
Albums Substance and Power Corruption & Lies make up the bulk of the first half of the set, showcasing the shimmering synths and pulsating bass which best characterise New Order’s sound. Under the blue stage lights, Hook emerges clad in a Joy Division T-shirt to an enthusiastic crowd of fans who dance along to his every word. ‘Ceremony’ and 1982’s ‘Procession’ prove that New Order’s brand of electronica translates surprisingly well with a live guitar band, and there is something reminiscent of The Cure in their swirling synth-infused basslines.
There are lots of dads excitedly air-punching along tonight, reliving the music of their youth but with their kids, showing the band’s cross-generational appeal. The contrast of the Apple Mac beside the traditional guitar and drums combo perfectly encapsulates how New Order’s music has evolved: it is nostalgic without being suffocating, and maintains its original essence but with a modern edge. Hook often grips the microphone stand intensely as he sings, gesturing outwardly to the crowd whilst his band plays their unique style of alt-disco.
Preceded by a lengthy intro, the iconic bassline to ‘Temptation’ drives the crowd wild, and teases the career-defining ‘Blue Monday’ before it begins. The unmistakable drum machine intro makes it one of the most distinctive and unlikely hit songs of all time, throwing any rules about conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure out the window. The song’s minimalist beats and throbbing bass could easily be the soundtrack to a club night if it weren’t a gig. Experimenting with sampling and editing techniques really adds to New Order’s classic sound, having created some of the most underrated tracks of the 80s like ‘True Faith’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. Even ‘State of the Nation’ takes on a more ominous tone in our post-Brexit climate.
Peter Hook and the Light seamlessly meld genres between irresistible riffs and moody electro beats, which have inspired many a modern house track. As a man of few words, Hook compensates with a hint of theatricality to his performance and often allows fans to take over singing duties, as they do with a massive chorus of, “I used to think that the day would never come…”
The quintet (including Hook’s son also on bass) returns by raising a drink to the audience after a short break. The second half of tonight’s set is comprised of Joy Division material, featuring the same trademark bass, but with a more post-punk-fuelled intensity. Joy Division may have sown the seeds for Hook’s modern, electro-based renaissance in New Order, yet he manages to capture the gloomy essence of his first band just as well as his second, and with pleasure in doing so.
Almost like two gigs in one, The Light provide the perfect opportunity for fans that couldn’t experience the original Joy Division line-up the first time around. The second half of tonight’s show is more fast-paced and driven by a punk spirit, with ‘Transmission’, ‘She’s Lost Control’ and penultimate track ‘Atmosphere’ (dedicated to former frontman Ian Curtis) being highlights.
“It’s time to say goodnight,” Hook declares in his thick Mancunian accent, before launching into Joy Division’s quintessential ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Having got everyone in the venue bouncing, Hook triumphantly raises his guitar above his head and hurls his sweaty shirt into the crowd. Peter Hook and the Light put on a fantastic show that is well worth seeing, and could be criticised perhaps only for its sheer length – but with such a wealth of material to enjoy, who’s really complaining?