City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Peter Hook and The Light - Unknown Pleasures, The Liquid Room, Review

By Euan Andrews - Posted on 16 May 2011

Peter Hook and The Light - Image Courtesy of The Liquid Room
Show Details
The Liquid Room

“HOOKAAAY”, the crowd bays. “HOOOKAAAAY”!

A near capacity Liquid Room is stiflingly hot, thronged with ageing punks and a fair few young whippersnappers who can’t have been alive when Ian Curtis spent his last night on Earth downing whisky and watching Werner Herzog’s Stroszek.

It’s testimony to the incredible cult that has slowly emerged around Joy Division, most prominently over the past ten years during which time legions of groups and performers have audibly cited that most legendary of post-punk bands as a defining influence.

The “HOOKAY” the throng is bellowing for is, of course, Peter Hook. Having walked out on his erstwhile bandmates some time back, in the tailstream of yet another lacklustre New Order album, Hook has spent the past few years seemingly in the throes of a grand mid-life crisis. A “lecture” tour with Howard Marks as well as several new group ventures throttled at birth, now Hook is determined to pay homage to his past in a manner that could invoke sacrilege.

With the iconic cover of Joy Division’s debut album, “Unknown Pleasures”, as stage backdrop, Hook brings his young charges onstage to a quick blast of Kraftwerk. They swiftly plug in and, with nary a word to us, they play a whole load of Joy Division songs. And they play them pretty well.

That may sound as if to damn with faint praise, but as soon as this tour had been announced it had been roundly trounced by certain keepers of the flame as Hook cashing in on an illustrious past. But the upshot is that, as an original member of Joy Division, if he wants to play these songs then he damn well can.

The Light facilitate a perfect reproduction of producer Martin Hannett’s icy ghost-scapes, with guitarist and drummer deserving special praise for ramping up the intensity levels. Hook himself prowls the stage front, bass slung traditionally low, looking the very definition of the middle-aged bloke down the pub who tells you how he used to be in a punk band. His “singing” veers from mercifully inaudible to out-of-tune holler and much of the bass playing is left to a stage-left back-up, Hook himself only occasionally picking out one of his trademark liquid rumbling basslines.

The overall impression is of a good Joy Division tribute band fronted by Peter Hook. It’s clear from their reaction that this is precisely what the audience want. They lap it up, singing along to the likes of “Digital” and “Isolation”. Ex-Happy Mondays’ singer Rowena pops in for a few songs, causing fears of an X-Factor style calamity, but her deeply resonant voice is perfectly matched to some slower songs, particularly “Atmosphere”, lending an air of soulful melancholy where once there was pitch-black despair.

It’s Hook’s night, ultimately, and he’s having a blast. By the evenings end he’s regaling us with tales of when New Order played The Playhouse (“That were a fuckin’ gig, fuckin’ fights in the car park”) and leading a quite ecstatic audience in the inevitable finale of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

He’s certainly done it his way, reclaiming his own past while clearly not giving a hoot what any surviving ex-bandmates may think. One moment which stands out is Hook’s spoken intro to “Transmission”, in which he points out an overly refreshed lady at the front and exclaims, “By God, love, you’re going to have a fuckin’ sore head tomorrow”. I find myself thinking that Ian Curtis wouldn’t have done it like that but, then again, thirty years down the line and maybe he would?