For some in Leicester’s O2 Academy, this was a chance to relive their youth. For the younger members of the crowd, myself included, this would be the closest we would get to experiencing one of the most influential bands in rock history: Joy Division.
Since leaving New Order, Peter Hook has toured with his new band (The Light) allowing music fans, both young and old to hear songs that hadn’t been played for over thirty years. Although this has generated criticism from some parts of the media and the remaining members of New Order as ruining Joy Division’s legacy, many others have thanked and praised Hook for ensuring that Joy Division are still as vital and important now. This latest tour has been billed as the ‘Unknown Pleasures Tour’, in which the band plays Joy Division’s seminal first album in full, in addition to other songs from the band’s back catalogue.
A new Manchester-based band, Shinies, opened proceedings with a shoegaze-influenced set. It wasn’t revolutionary, and nor did it pretend to be, but it was highly listenable, and they could find themselves with a few minor indie hits on their hands. Next up was Kevin Hewick, a Leicester-based musician signed to Hacienda, who played a short set of upbeat, lyrically-intelligent, acoustic songs.
After a short interlude, Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’ came on over the PA. Peter Hook and The Light walked onstage and immediately began with ‘Dead Souls’. This was perhaps out of character for the band as, normally, they played the songs in an almost chronological order. Instead, they began with this later B-side, whose excellent haunting guitar lines set the tone for what was to come.
Next, they played two tracks from Joy Division’s first EP: Ideal For Living. The spoken word of ‘No Love Lost’ was slightly lost in the mix, but ‘Leaders Of Men’ was one of the stand-out songs of the night. It was noticeably more punk- than later Joy Division material, yet its prominent, grooving bassline showed the direction in which the band were heading. For the majority of songs it was Peter Hook’s son that took most of the bass duties, which allowed Hook to focus on being the frontman.
The opening bass notes of early single ‘Digital’ signalled that Unknown Pleasures was to follow soon after. ‘Disorder’ was executed perfectly, sounding like the rock song that it was always meant to be. ‘Day Of The Lords’ sounded as anthemic as ever, and the growling bassline of ‘Insight’ showed us perfectly what Joy Division were all about. ‘She’s Lost Control’, famously written by Ian Curtis after witnessing a girl’s epileptic fit, was given the grand treatment that it deserves. Meanwhile ‘Shadowplay’ was loud and rough, giving it exactly what makes it such a great song. The album’s last song, the slower ‘I Remember Nothing’, was a hint of what was to come in the ensuing encores.
The first encore sampled exclusively from Joy Division’s second and final album, Closer. ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ was intense, with guitarist Nat Watson using a beer bottle to recreate the song’s famous discordant guitar screeches. ‘The Eternal’ sounded as doom-laden as the original album version, allowing the crowd a chance to catch their breath before the hit-packed second encore.
The second encore began with Joy Division’s last song, which then became New Order’s first: ‘Ceremony’. It sounded as relevant as it always has,and sounded significantly better than New Order’s versions from their summer gigs. This was followed by ‘Transmission’, which had most of the crowd doing their best Curtis impressions. With only time for one more song, it was no surprise to hear the famous bassline of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ reverberate around the room. Despite not sounding as tight as some other songs, it was a necessary way to end what had been a great exhibition of Joy Division.
Whilst leaving the venue, I could not disagree more strongly with those that had labelled Peter Hook and The Light as a bad tribute band. This was the closest I would get to seeing one of my favourite bands, and in my mind, you can’t ask for much more. And anyway, nostalgia aside, Peter Hook and The Light made the songs their own. If you’re looking for karaoke, catch the current New Order’s renditions of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, yelps and screams included.
…Alex has been listening to WU LYF – Triumph