Photos and Review by Max Stewart
Manchester’s Joy Division were one of the most important bands to pave the way for the alternative scene in the Eighties and beyond. With an energy and tone that has influenced everyone from U2 to Soundgarden to Black Flag, even forty years later the band’s short career has touched so many fans and musicians alike. Founding bassist Peter Hook and his band Peter Hook & the Light have truly embraced and honored the far-reaching legacy of Joy Division as well as New Order‘s superb catalog of music.
In an ultimate display of honoring the music, the band announced a three-night, homecoming run of shows in the band’s home city of Manchester at Albert Hall in which each night would have a different Joy Division and New Order album played in full, as well as a encore with a mix of both band’s songs.
On the first night of the three night run, Hook and his band began with a performance of Joy Division’s classic Unknown Pleasures (1979) in their entirety. The crowd was packed full of shirts with the iconic album cover, and it was clear many in the venue would be attending all three nights. When the bass line for “Disorder” started, the audience was fully drawn in and the majestic setting with the sun setting through the former cathedral windows. Peter Hook’s bass lines were always the most memorable in the Joy Division records, and he brings a raw power to those songs in a live setting. His vocals are a perfect homage to late signer Ian Curtis with some unique, ‘Hooky-style’ flavoring.
Seeing Hook perform one of the most important albums in the city where Joy Division started is a memory that won’t soon be forgotten. Especially given that Albert Hall is just across the street from where the famous Sex Pistols gig in 1976 took place, where Hook and Bernard Sumner saw the show and decided to start a band (apparently Hook bought a bass the next day).
After a quick set break, Hook and his band paid tribute to New Order, the band that formed in the wake of founding singer Curtis’ passing in 1980. Hook and the Light played the album Movement (1981) was their first release before having massive mainstream success.
Commenting on both albums being performed on the band’s Instagram, Hook described it perfectly:
Comparing these two albums is very interesting. The confidence that Joy Division had in making Unknown Pleasures was very high, the complete opposite of New Order making Movement. Yet hearing them both in such close proximity gives the listener an insight into the backbone of JD which still shines through musically on Movement.
It was obvious what we had lost, and so was the grieving process. But using Ian as an inspiration and taking those very tentative steps forward we were able to learn and stand in our lonely place and see a way forward. Like a Phoenix from the ashes.
The energy in the room hit an apex during the encore, with the New Order tune “Ceremony” and Joy Division songs “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” being a moment of cathartic bliss in the crowd. The crowd was singing the bass lines, and the entire hall was on their feat belting the lyrics. Simply brilliant. For fans of both of these bands, seeing this well-rounded setlist in Manchester was the ultimate experiential way to celebrate this music.
Based on the smiles and jaws on the floor throughout the venue, it was clearly a powerful night for the Gen X fans that remember the albums from their youth as well as the many younger attendees with Unknown Pleasures t-shirts. As the band performed “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in the encore with the chorus of audience members singing in unison, we could not help but be touched that Hook has embraced his musical history and the joy of Joy Division and New Order. We are glad he and his band have chosen to share some of these live musical memories with their legions of fans across the world.