“And that’s how you play The Perfect Kiss!” An emphatic Peter Hook, currently touring as Peter Hook & The Light (formerly of Joy Division and New Order) – rock and roll’s greatest bass player – is apparently a skilled mind reader as well, as he pulled that quote right out of my head to shout back through his microphone after playing the best rendition of the classic song that I’d ever heard. Hooky and his band are in 2014 touring New Order’s third and fourth albums (Low-Life and Brotherhood, respectively) in their entirety, having done the same in 2013 with the first two (Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies). As an added bonus with each of these outings, they open for themselves as Slaves of Venues with dedicated Joy Division sets, which collectively makes for quite a substantive and lengthy set of shows each night. At The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood Saturday night, the dedicated fans in attendance were also treated to a surprise guest appearance on stage for the encore, with none other than Moby coming out to perform vocals for the first two songs of that set to close out the evening. All and all, with a show kicking off around 9:30 PM and going until 12:30 AM, it was three solid hours of celebration for fans of Joy Division and New Order. It was certainly one of those special shows were the venue, artist, and fans all clicked perfectly to make for a very memorable experience and a blazing hot and awesome show by a legendary artist and performer, who in my opinion is the heart and soul of New Order keeping the most authentic live performance of their music alive for old and new fans.
Who: Peter Hook & The Light
Supporting: Slaves of Venus
Venue: The Fonda Theatre
Where: Hollywood, California
When: November 22, 2014
Seating: General Admission Standing (also photo pass first three songs each set)
I had an opportunity to interview Peter Hook for my Rock Talk podcast about a month ago, so you can check out that audio interview via this link:
You can also read my review and see my photos of the 2013 tour as performed in San Francisco last year via this link:
This was my first visit to this venue, and I really loved it. Great theater with a multilevel GA standing floor as well as some seating above in the balcony.
As was the case last year, things got started a little later than scheduled, but I was expecting it this time around, and not only did they not skip any songs, they added “Love Will Never Tear Us Apart” on the end (it wasn’t on the published setlist) and went past curfew, not leaving the stage until about thirty minutes past midnight.
Slaves of Venus
- Peter Hook (vocals, bass, percussion)
- Jack Bates (bass)
- David Potts (guitar)
- Paul Kehoe (drums)
- Andy Poole (keyboards/synthesizer)
As with last year’s show, Peter Hook & The Light opened up as Slaves of Venus for a Joy Division set, though the only difference between the two bands, I think, is a change of t-shirt by Hooky.
Last year, I think this caught many by surprise, but this time around I think the word got out, and people up front seemed very amped for a dose of Joy Division.
To be perfectly honest, though the opposite opinion is the “cooler” one, I’m a huge, huge fan of New Order (one of my all-time favorite bands, actually), but Joy Division’s music never quite connected with me on the same level. I have more of a respect for the music and their accomplishments as a band and as a body of work more than actually *enjoy* listening to Joy Division albums front to back, if that makes any sense. Musically, for me, it is more of a fundamental building block for what creating New Order’s unique sound. What Joy Division that I hear in New Order’s music I love, but with the “New Order-ness” stripped away, it is not catchy or poppy enough for me.
Having said all of that, getting to experience Peter Hook & The Light’s take on the material definitely makes me feel like it is an authentic experience, and this is the way it was performed and heard back in the day… so it’s like getting in a time travel machine and going back to a different time and space and climate, which is very cool.
As I mentioned last year, Hooky’s son, Jack, is absolutely behyond legitimate on bass. If I didn’t know he was his son, I would think to myself, wow, this kid can really lay it down. So he is definitely taking advantage of moth his own gifts and the obvious tutelage of his father.
Paul Kehoe is excellent on drums, which is a feat giving the wide-ranging styles employed by Joy Division and New Order.
David Potts has an understated style on guitar but there is a lot of power in his work that stands in contrast to the presentation.
Andy Poole on keyboards was kind of hidden back and away in the shadows at this show, so it is all the more surprising to hear those familiar sounds and riffs filling the room… so while visually he has no impact whatsoever, there is no denying the importance of those sounds in the work.
Below is the setlist from the Slaves of Venus portion of the evening (the first of three full sets):
- Atmosphere (Joy Division song)
- Digital (Joy Division song)
- Disorder (Joy Division song)
- Twenty Four Hours (Joy Division song)
- Novelty (Joy Division song)
- Wilderness (Joy Division song)
- Decades (Joy Division song)
Peter Hook & The Light
- Peter Hook (vocals, bass, percussion)
- Jack Bates (bass)
- David Potts (guitar)
- Paul Kehoe (drums)
- Andy Poole (keyboards/synthesizer)
As mentioned in my review last year (and in my interview), Peter Hook is my all-time favorite bass player. I think the man is a genius, and with many bands, the bass player is kind of lost in the sound, with nothing much to stand out within the songs (on stage or off). Peter Hook is about the opposite – not only is his work within each song integral, he has developed such a unique and distinct sound with the bass guitar that it is a singular style that is immediately identifiable. For many Joy Division and New Order songs, the lead guitar takes back seat to the basslines… the bass is just fundamental and key to all of that music. I’d easily pick his work on “Blue Monday” as the coolest bassline of all time. Love it.
It was a real honor to speak with him on the phone late last month, and his commentary struck and surprised me in many ways.
Funny enough, my intention going in was not to fish for negative commentary on (the current) New Order and his former band mates, but he seemed to be in a mood to discuss just that.
In any event, below are a few of the more interesting comments by Peter Hook from just the first half of our conversation…
- “The actual name of the band is, “The Light”. It’s just that the promoters obviously didn’t want to promote a band that nobody’s heard of, so they stuck my name in front of it and really, to be honest with you, it’s just stuck now. And it’s sad in many ways, but that’s life, I do understand that.”
- “The thing is, when I first started, it was to do a celebration for Ian Curtis’ 30th anniversary… it was the 30th anniversary of his life, in 2010.”
- “What struck me was that when we were together as New Order, it’s well documented we never had anything to do with Joy Division in particular. We ignored everything to do with Joy Division. We’d never celebrated anything to do with Joy Division. When we separated in 2006, and you were on the outside looking in, it seemed really odd.”
- “I tried to get a singer, and basically they were all scared off by the Internet trolls. These wonderful people that are so sure of everything that they say… that they have to hide behind a made up name… Everybody I asked to sing was frightened off by the Internet. In the end, my friend Rowetta from the Happy Mondays said, ‘okay, you’re going to have to stop messin’ about. You’re going to have to do it. That’s it.’ And I thought, ‘Oh shit…’.”
- “Then I needed someone to play bass. And my son Jack was exactly the same age I was when I played, Unknown Pleasures. Seemed the obvious candidate.”
- “We were only going to do one night, than that became two nights. Then we got offers for gigs, all around the world, and it just snowballed from there. And funnily enough, once you do Unknown Pleasures, it seemed obvious to do Closer, and then we did Still as well… and then it seemed even more obvious to carry on through New Order. So that’s what happened.”
- “The thing is that most of these songs have been studiously ignored by New Order, and are being studiously being ignored by ‘New Odor’, while they’re pretending to be New Order. Right? So the thing is, is that it does leave it wide open for me to play this fabulous music that earned us our following. Without these songs, we wouldn’t exist.”
- “When we were together as New Order, before we split up in 2006, in my opinion Bernard and Stephen were so reluctant to play anything that wasn’t a hit, it just seemed ridiculous to me and it was a great source of frustration. I’m absolutely delighted that they’d stuck to their colors, and still play pretty much the same set in 2014 as they did in 2011, as they did in 2006, as we did in 2000, and as we did in 1997. It’s changed so little, they’re obviously still not interested in any of the old music, and to be honest with you, as my wife said to me, ‘if you were there, it would drive you nuts’…”
- “I do get to dig out these songs that we should have been playing, but for some reason – and I hope some journalist will ask sometime why they would play these older songs – they just wouldn’t do it.” [Note: I did put in for an interview with New Order on 7/10/2014 and was approved for a photo pass but my interview request could not be accommodated]
- “I do, I have a lot of ill will towards them; don’t worry about it. I thought what they did, when they reformed behind my back while I was away in China was absolutely disgusting. It really was the most cowardly, awful thing for anybody to do. And the thing is, to then try and pretend that they are New Order is just outrageous to me. They are about as much New Order as I am Joy Division… You know, playing the stuff. It’s ridiculous and Barney knows that… he has to bite his tongue all the time. It’s a ridiculous premise that most people cannot buy into and I really do hope that people realize that they are being taken for a ride. That disconnection that you feel is the same thing that I felt when I was in the band. There was a reluctance to play. It’s interesting, because you know, the thing about it is, that I do thing without the economic dip, that we’ve had… This is a job that we do. I do this job because I love it. And I’m very lucky to have a job that I love and enjoy. But I do it to put my kids through school, to have a nice life at home… I work very hard to provide for my family. So I don’t make any jokes about it, it is a job. I do have to do it.”
- “Music is usually better when it’s created in a difficult situation. With an edge. When you look at Jagger and Richards, you know, you look at all these great songwriting teams, they’re not the best of buddies most of the time. And that does help to make great music. Now the interesting thing is, is that me and Barney used to have an edge with us all the time. We always were falling out. Pete Saville described it very well, he said ‘when you go and see them, there’s no edge, because we don’t know whether you and Barney have had a fight’. But Barney just gets his own way now, and just gets to do whatever he wants.”
- “It was really sad, actually. I remember when they reformed, and I phoned Steve Morris up because Steve Morris was the one that I always confided in, because it was always me and Steve that knocked around after the gigs… that always went home together… Steve knew exactly how I felt, and how I wanted to split the band up, and how the band actually did split up in 2006. And when they reformed, I phone him up and I said ‘what are you doing? You know what was happening, and you know what happened, why are you saying this?’ And do you know what he said to me? ‘You know me, okay, whichever way the wind blows…’ And I thought, ‘Oh God…’ And that was a hard lesson to learn after all those years, that somebody that you spent that much time with was that fickle; that disloyal to you… after that, it was heartbreaking actually. It really was a heartbreaking moment for me. Probably one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve had in my time with New Order.”
As explained in past reviews of the current touring formation of New Order (sans Peter Hook), I have been a huge New Order fan going back to the early 80s. For those unfamiliar with the band, they were formed by the surviving members of Joy Division after the 1980 suicide of their lead singer, Ian Curtis. Bernard Sumner took over vocals, Stephen Morris and Peter (“Hooky”) Hook continued with bass and other instruments, and Gillian Gilbert joined the reformed band, which had a strong electronic pop change in direction from Joy Division’s post punk sound, though still retained a lot of the sound from the former band’s work as well.
Being a British band and breaking up a few times over the years, many had never had an opportunity to see them perform live, and the last break-up, with a division between Peter Hook and the other members of the band, it left most fans suspecting that they may never see the band play together again. The last time I saw them in concert prior to the new incarnation of the band was at Shoreline Amphitheater in 1993, and that would also mark the only time I’d ever seen Peter Hook perform live in concert.
I did have an opportunity to catch the reformed (i.e. without Peter Hook) band play their first gig in England after an absence of five years at The Troxy in London in December 2011 as well as at The Greek in Los Angeles about two years ago, at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas last year, and at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco this year.
That 2011 reunion began with two concerts (one in Paris, one in Brussels) to benefit their friend and filmmaker Michael Shamberg. The reunion was not without controversy, with founding member Peter Hook, no longer involved in the band, being publicly vocal about his disagreement with the new line-up. Peter Hook & The Light had in the meantime been touring extensively playing a lot of Joy Division material.
A lot of fans have been taking sides with one camp or the other in their dispute and parting of the ways… I’ve found this to be sad and unfortunate, and kind of problematic for fans to resolve. I love the band, New Order (the original) and all of the members are incredible artists in their own right. It is unfortunate that a series of events and personality conflicts have resulted in division, but if both parties are happy to continue on as they do and perform and make new music, my hope is to support them all, however their artistry manifests itself. Obviously, per my interview with Peter Hook, he has been hurt by the affair which is very understandable, but how this could be repaired or if it is even possible (or even desired by either party) is unknown.
As I’ve stated in past reviews, if I have an opportunity to see the current incarnation of New Order, I will; if I have a chance to see Peter Hook & The Light, I will for sure support their efforts as well.
All that being said, having now seen both bands several times, I can’t help but to continue to compare and contrast to some extent, as I found the respective bands have very different approaches to recreating their classic music.
Peter Hook & The Light continue to have more of a traditional, raw, “band” approach to the music, with more emphasis on the classic rock band set up of guitar/bass/drums/vocals/keyboards, and thus better capture the spirit of the Joy Division material and early New Order material, while the current New Order is more geared toward the New Order ‘greatest hits’ type of material.
I also prefer Hooky’s vocals on the early New Order material over Barney’s, wherein he always seemed to kind of mimic Ian’s style and sound more on those earlier songs.
So the choice for Peter Hook and his band to tackle the first two and now third and forth New Order albums is a dream for fans of that material, as that era perfectly matches their band. Taking in the show, I could imagine that this is what it might have felt like hearing the original New Order playing that material back in the day. More organic and authentic to the time. Though stretching into the third album in particular, those vocals lend to Bernard’s vocal style more, so I was interested to hear how that would play out.
Interestingly, David Potts (who was also the band Monaco with Hooky) played a much larger part on vocals with this tour, particularly on the song “Sooner Than You Think”, and he was brilliant doing the lead on it. Fantastic (love that song as well).
As far as the albums covered this time around, Low-Life is one of my favorite New Order albums, and Brotherhood I never quite enjoyed as much as the others (with the exception of the big hit, “Bizarre Love Triangle”. So the front half of the New Order set was definitely the highlight for me, and hearing these songs (I love all of them) – many live for the first time for me – was unforgettable.
As mentioned in the past, my dream is to someday hear one of these groups play “Fine Time”, “Round and Round”, and “Mr. Disco”. Technique is my favorite New Order album (and the one I’d rate as representative of them at “the top of their powers”, so to say), so I did get a chance to ask Peter Hook in our interview if he will be tackling it in a future tour, and he confirmed that they will be, which is amazing.
The really funny thing is that in my review of the tour last year, I wrote the following:
I think what really cemented for me, the genius of New Order and each member of the band, but particularly Peter Hook, was the Jonathan Demme video for “The Perfect Kiss”, which showed the band playing the song live in studio. Fucking brilliant piece of music, and one of the best music videos of all time (and obviously Jonathan Demme went on to do great things, so I think it all speaks for itself). And at that point it was really a band born of Joy Division, but absolutely different and distinct from the band that maybe didn’t have mainstream success but I think has proven to be more important in its influence on other artists. I’ve always felt that the most important legacy for Joy Division (more so than the music) is two fold – the influence on subsequent artists and the creation of New Order.
So funny that a year later, that song (“The Perfect Kiss”) would be such a highlight of this current tour. Fucking amazing performance of that one in particular at The Fonda Theatre on Saturday night!
Also, having seen both New Order and Peter Hook & The Light again live in concert a year after my review last year, I feel even more strongly in my opinion that New Order leans more heavily on some cool electronic images screening behind them (kind of in the spirit of the work done for them by Peter Saville) as part of the impact and show, Peter Hook & The Light are all about less is more. Even the lighting was toned down significantly for this light, with an emphasis on moody backlighting, though it might be due to the fact that I saw them in a different venue last year – I notice these things more than others as it impacts photography (it’s more challenging to get those crisp/detailed shots when all of the light is coming from behind). In any event, another point of contrast.
I definitely am not too impressed with L.A. crowds, but the one that turned out for this show at the Fonda was awesome – really hard core fans. As things were initially running a little late I had a chance to chat with some in the front row, and it included people who started lining up around 2PM for the show and even members of a tribute band. Spirits and excitement were high before anything even happened, and amped up more and more as the night wore on. Also, many were going to multiple shows, not just at The Fonda.
On top of everything else, the addition of Moby on vocals to kick off the first two songs of the encore was epic. Maybe Peter Hook can convince him to come along for the future tour with Technique – now that would be a dream line up for that album (hopefully with David Potts coming in more on some of the vocals as well).
Below is the setlist for the New Order portion of the evening, including the encore (and, as mentioned, they played “Love Will Tear Us Apart” at the end as well):
- Murder (New Order song)
- Lonesome Tonight (New Order song)
- Thieves Like Us (New Order song)
- Love Vigilantes (New Order song)
- The Perfect Kiss (New Order song)
- This Time of Night (New Order song)
- Sunrise (New Order song)
- Elegia (New Order song)
- Sooner Than You Think (New Order song)
- Subculture (New Order song)
- Face Up (New Order song)
- Paradise (New Order song)
- Weirdo (New Order song)
- As It Is When It Was (New Order song)
- Broken Promise (New Order song)
- Way of Life (New Order song)
- Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order song)
- All Day Long (New Order song)
- Angel Dust (New Order song)
- Every Little Counts (New Order song)
- New Dawn Fades (Joy Division song) – with Moby
- Ceremony (Joy Division song) – with Moby
- True Faith (New Order song)
- Temptation (New Order song)
- Love With Tear Us Apart (Joy Division song)
Below are some photos of Peter Hook & The Light performing on stage (click any image for higher resolution version of each photo); the shots with Moby during the encore were shot from the side, out of the pit: