Peter Hook and The Light bring punk to a disco fight

by Tyler Nanson

In 2010, Peter Hook, formerly of the post-punk pioneering Joy Division and more recently the electro-disco outfit New Order, decided to reclaim his repertoire of genre-melding classics by taking them on the road and performing them in their illustrious entirety with his band The Light.

Working chronologically, Hook’s first expedition was to embark upon the pilgrimage of desolate despair first paved on Joy Division’s 1979 release, Unknown Pleasures. From there, Hook worked his way through the new-wave smashes of New Order with records such as Movement (1981) and Power, Corruption & Lies (1983). Now, sitting firmly in the techno-oriented back-half of the New Order catalog, Hook is breathing new life into the “dead souls” of 1989’s acid-house rager Technique and the dance-rock debacle that was it’s 1993 follow-up, Republic.

With the spastic sputtering of cymbals on Technique’s bombastic opener “Fine Time,” the crowd at Danforth Music Hall was suddenly transported to the most hedonistic of the U.K. nightclubs via its grimy rave-boom of the late eighties. The pulsating tone is unsurprisingly throaty and urgent, as Hook has always fancied himself the orator of rock within New Order; the punk tug to the electronic pull of front-man Bernard Sumner. Consequently, it’s on tracks like “The Right Way” where Hook is most in his element, executing a driving pop-rock tune that would have even the hipster-cool kids in the corner disentangling their perpetually entwined arms.

The marriage of these two records is a particularly combative one. Technique, for one, is widely considered to be the last great New Order record, whereas Republic is subsequently considered the band’s first bust. The result is an interesting social experiment of sorts. As with the commencement of Republic, hundreds upon hundreds of Canadians began politely bobbing their heads to songs that should be scraped from the ends of this barbarous earth, let alone any self-respecting setlist. Tracks like “Ruined in a Day” would seldom be given the light of day, but with such unwavering devotion to honoring each record in full, it had to be endured. Not all was doom and gloom, though, as Republic sports New Order’s biggest North American hit in “Regret,” and the dancy deep-cut “Chemical” was benefited in bounds by the band’s punchier live rendition.

Put simply, Peter Hook is a bass deity. His guttural, droning lead bass licks are nearly as recognizable as the very songs they permeate. This recognition puts Hook in a unique position, as droves of rabid fans come to see him take sole command of the classic efforts of an iconic collective. Thankfully, taking command seems to come naturally, as Hook regularly waddles side-to-side, lugging his broad, low-hanging bass guitar across the stage while confidently plucking away at anthems such as “Ceremony” to the delight of a ravenous audience.

Despite the emphasis on New Order’s waning years, the night’s entirety was not wholly devoted to the perceived “power, corruption & lies” of the group he left behind more than a decade ago. Hook proudly revisited jams of Joy Division past with the dance-punk pillars “Transmission” and “Isolation,” before dedicating a soaring version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” to post-punks perennial poet and former bandmate, Ian Curtis.

With that, the curtains closed, the floodlights flashed, and the vampiric ghouls of the Danforth slithered out into the night, crawling back to their woefully ordinary lives.

Image courtesy of the artist