If you have been following music news of late, you would have read of the ongoing battles between Bernard Sumner, lead vocalist and guitarist for New Order and bass player Peter Hook. Back in the day when the two made up half of Joy Division along with the late Ian Curtis, everything made sense following the release of 2 influential albums to the musical world. Following the death of Curtis and the spawning of New Order and 9 albums later, there is a bit of shit going down. Tonight was no exception, a night that for the first time in my musical life had me thinking very deeply.
Tonight was never going to be an easy night, there was a sense of uncertainity in my head and in my heart. What circled in my head was the unexpected of what I was about to experience but on the back of numerous read reviews of Peter Hook & The Light, it all sounded like a promising night for those of us who never got the chance to experience Joy Division or the likes of early New Order. Peter Hook called tonight “a celebration” of music from Joy Division and New Order, in particular two albums Low Life & Brotherhood. These were two albums that brought us such hit songs as Confusion, True Faith, Bizzare Love Triangle, Shell Shock,Thieves Like Us and State of the Nation, yep a complete hit parade.
So after chatting to a professor who interviewed me with regards to a thesis she was writing about the nolstagia of music and the legacy of Joy Divison, my mind went wondering to some very uncertain places. What was I doing here? Do I really want to see one part of both bands put another band together to play songs that he only partly wrote?
Tonight’s performance was no doubt special, especially to the delight of my co-writer Sarah who despite her wonderfully youthful age loved Joy Division, who learned that the first 30 minutes would be devoted to Joy Division. I have complete appreciation and respect for Joy Division and the influence they had on the bands I love today, however hearing the tracks live, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that this was actually taking place. Many years have passed and what stood before me was a band covering Joy Division songs. Of course this did not detract from the passionate audience who irrespectively sung along with eyes closed, reliving their punk days and taking whatever they could, perhaps drinking a little too much lager to take them there.
Peter Hook was here to “celebrate” two of New Orders albums, albums that commenced the diversion into electronica and synths, playing many of the tracks that very much crafted my youth, so of course, it was an exciting event matched with a sense of uncertainty. The set started well, Peter Hook’s band are bloody talented, they play the songs true to their sound and urgency, Peter Hook accompanied by a fellow bass player to help accentuate Hooks unique bass style.
As the night progressed and my mind began to wonder, it dawned on me that this really was just a group of fans who were here to get as close as we could get to songs that built our youth. This was all about NOLSTAGIA, nothing more, we knew the songs, knew how they were played out, but sung by someone (in this case a bass player, Peter Hook) who tried to emulate his once fellow band member. It was seriously odd shit.
With the distinctive introduction of Bizarre Love Triangle, the audience got excited and this is when I completely shunned. I love this song, it was the track that made me respect and explore electronic music, but as it played out it sounding nothing more than a man on stage playing to backing track, yes, a very odd karaoke. This wasn’t good, all I was experiencing was nolstagia and not a band on stage that played it.
This pretty much was my feeling through the whole 2 and half hours, I almost felt upset that I was here, that this was happening, I just didn’t get it. I may have simply missed the point to this whole experience of watching a group of, yes, very talented musicians, simply covering some songs.
The highlight was Thieves Llike Us, again for nostalgic purposes not for musical talent….it was at this point I had to turn away and walkout. Yes, I walked out of the gig. I have done this once before, and that was back in London in 2002 with a band who gambled to see purely based on a cool band name, a name that escapes me now.
While standing outside and chatting to some equally confused and angered fans (who would have been no more than 20 years old) the opening chords of Ceremony played, my favourite New Order song. I quickly ran in to give it another shot….I looked on stage, literally shook my head and for the final time headed into the night.
What just happened? Was I just tired? Did I expect too much? Was this all just a way to make money? Was this really a celebration? Am I just a music snob?
What a confusing night….today, I still think about what just happened.
Going in as a Joy Division fan as opposed to James’ New Order preference, I was there for the opening songs. Joy Division for me was about finding the alternative to Black Eyed Peas as a teenager; they represent that point of discovery in individualism and freedom of expression after the oppressive years of early high school peer pressure. So I guess you could say I was there for the nostalgia just like everyone else crammed into The Corner Hotel on Saturday, though thirty years later than most. As for New Order, I’m a John Hughes / Molly Ringwald fan so I figured I’d have a good time.
Having done no research prior to the gig – like any excellent music writer, duh – I was a little surprised when Peter Hook stumped onto the stage with old grizzled dudes that weren’t actually at all part of the original OR current New Order lineup. In fact, only after did I even research and realize that Peter Hook has been replaced in the reformed New Order. Awks, this is why you do your homework kids. So, it came down to an old dude with past connections to two very influential bands – and sure, his role in these bands were substantial – but in this context, where he didn’t actually play his original bass lines that much, rather taking on Bernard Sumner and Ian Curtis as vocalist, there wasn’t much difference between Peter Hook and the Light and your standard cover band.
To be fair, the musicians were excellent. Tackling the basslines and drums of both Joy Division and New Order is no mean feat, and these dudes more than pulled it off. Coming from musically-respected backgrounds themselves – Hooks own son, Jack Bates, slays on the bass and Monaco band member David Potts handled the guitar and backing vocals with no problems – The Light were a great musical act, personally I would have rather heard them play original stuff, these guys are good. But sadly, these songs were just too connected to their iconic original singers, and though Hook made a passable impression of Ian Curtis – less passable of Sumner – it wasn’t and can never be better than sitting at home listening to the originals, much less live (if only).
The crowd, though, were fantastic. I LOVE going to nostalgia gigs. For one thing, you don’t have to watch the gig through a sea of smart phone screens. These old rockers were living it, man. So much energy, so many awkward dance moves, so many eyes blazed over with memories, so many shiny, balding backs of men’s heads, flinging droplets of sweat into the air as they shimmied their way through the hits. By the time we got to Bizaare Love Triangle there was such a good vibe going on the floor I forgot about the injustice of what I was listening to and just lost myself to the memory of awkward dances and bitchin’ basslines. Getting old isn’t so bad if there is this much fun at gigs.
Image source: news.com.au