Joy Division might have formed some forty years ago but Peter Hook is still out there touring and delivering lengthy sets tightly packed with fan favourites – tonight’s appearance at Brighton’s Concorde 2 certainly isn’t short on content and the crowd are plainly primed and ready for the 2 hour set. Hook and his band clearly have a good grasp on what their fanbase want, as there’s no lack of enthusiasm from much of the crowd tonight and many a track in the crowded setlist is greeted by whoops and hollas. The band give rock solid performances throughout the lengthy set, lending Hook a reliable backing. Although the performances can’t be faulted tonight, they do veer into somewhat staid territory at times, if simply because they stick so faithfully to the source material that it can sometimes feel simply like listening to the records very loudly. Whether this is an issue or not largely depends on what you look for in live music – a sense of thrilling exploration or the warm familiarity of a greatest hits set faithfully reproduced.
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Tonight’s set focuses heavily on New Order – unsurprising given the quantity of material by the band in comparison to the brief output of Joy Division. Nonetheless, it would have made for a welcome change of pace to have a few more of Ian Curtis’ songs peppered throughout the set. When Hook does take on material from his first band, he does an admirable job of it. It’s unfair to expect anything to match the shocking soul and intensity of Curtis’ delivery but, all things considered, Hook and his band represent perhaps the best way to see live material from the much loved group today.
The New Order material is, unsurprisingly, where Hook seems most at home. Although he parted ways with the group a decade ago, it’s clear he still has a lot of love for the band that he spent an accumulative 22 years in. He has no shortage of enthusiasm and although he isn’t an overt showman in the traditional sense, there’s no denying that he has a strong command over his audience, which he uses well. His vocals are a little shakey at times but he sings with so much gusto and verve that he carries himself through any hiccups with ease. He does a surprisingly small amount of heavy lifting – lead vocals are handled by his guitarist on a number of a songs and even some of his signature bass work is taken care of by another band member. It’s not that his band fail to do the source material justice, rather that it somewhat saps the sense of performance out of the show – not to mention the fact that Hook simply does what he does better than anyone else in his band.
Regardless of this, Hook and his band do manage to achieve everything they set out to do. Whilst the band may not deliver adventurous re-workings or skin-of-teeth improvisation, they do hit the mark when it comes to pleasing their fans. There’s an air of electric enthusiasm throughout the crowd – it’s a sea of raised hands and shaking hips – and the audience find themselves heartily singing along on the more anthemic numbers, sometimes to the point of nearly drowning out Hook’s vocals. It’s plainly clear that Peter Hook & The Light know their audience very well and tailor what they do in order to deliver the maximum amount of kicks for the long term fans in the audience. It works, too; there’s a palpable sense of joy amongst much of the crowd. It’s a show that undeniably hones in on those who really matter: the hardcore fans. That alone is enough.