“Hey everyone, thank you for being here with me, in this journey down memory lane”. Peter Hook’s red-purple tee says “Salford Lad” on the front, that’s the first thing I notice, when he takes the stage. It’s 8pm, the Roundhouse is a sold out bomb of energy ready to explode and I’m quite sure it’s one of those moments the iconic bass player dreamt as a kid, when moving his first steps in music as a founding member of Joy Division and – shortly after – New Order.
I’m strangely nervous, when Peter Hook & The Light start their warm up on stage. It couldn’t be otherwise, I guess, when such a character is on stage and about to play two albums that are absolute milestones in the history of music as I know it. Joy Division are still alive, in people’s hearts and minds, and I have a taste of this feeling exactly when I step into the venue, when I find myself surrounded by men of all ages, proudly wearing their t-shirts with the iconic album artwork taken from ‘Unknown Pleasures’. The legacy of this band and its natural prosecution, New Order, is something I can’t quite explain. Nobody can, I’m afraid.
The trip down memory lane starts with the acid/dark atmospheres of New Order’s ‘Movement’ (1981), the first – difficult – effort that followed-up to Ian Curtis’ tragic death. Hooky looks in good shape. He picks on his bass strings fiercely and loudly, through the full tracklist of the LP. The opening ‘Dreams Never End’ immediately reaches the climax sounds like the perfect way to try and imagine ourselves on a stinky dance-floor nearly four three decades ago.
It’s a tasty anticipation, as the long marathon will start shortly after. ‘No Love Lost’ electrifies the air enough to introduce the psych-experimental riffs of ‘Atrocity Exhibition’. The track actually opens the curtain to the show, that lives its most tense phase running through the veins of ‘Closer’. Peter Hook & The Light do their best to recreate what – in space and time – has become a seminal sound. They do it right, in all honesty, for they move through the dungeons of the record and bring it back to life in a perfectly fitting frame.
I had read a lot about Hooky and his shows with the band after being kicked out of New Order in controversial circumstances I’m not going to write about right here. Some of those comments out there are unfair, if not unreasonably harsh, at least in my humble opinion. Peter plays the way he has always done, strumming on his bass with vigour and a style that – believe me – is very hard if not impossible to replicate. Joined on stage by his son and other three extremely talented musicians, he reaches the emotional peaks are with ‘Twenty Four Hours’ (one of my favourite Joy Division tunes by far), right before the first break.
‘Unknown Pleasures’ kicks off with its eternal gem ‘Disorder’, and that’s when the Roundhouse starts going crazy. Hooky seems to be shaky, edgy at the sight of the mosh-pit that – like nearly 40 years ago – grows in front of the stage. He misses some of the lyrics right at the end of the track, and he apologises, showing his most human side. The crowd naturally forgives him, and the notes of the 1979’s Joy Division album keep making the walls shake.
I find myself in some sort of state of trance, as the set moves (too fast) to its end. ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Dead Souls’ see Mark Lanegan singing with the band as a guest, then Hooky and friends play a version of ‘Ceremony’ that literally runs through my veins and nearly brings tears to my eyes. The Roundhouse is now a sweaty bubble; people from different generations are jumping and singing along. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is the perfect ending to a night that, overall, took me aback. Yes, because I wasn’t expecting much, besides the pleasure of seeing one of my musical heroes in flesh and blood. I could only close my eyes and think: “How the hell was it, to be there, right in front of Joy Division – Ian, Barney, Hooky and Steve – at the beginning of one of the most beautiful, and sad at the same time, chapters in the history of rock music?”.
I don’t know the answer, unfortunately, yet all I know is that this is highly addictive and right here, right now, I want to start this trip down memory lane all over again.
Forever, Joy Division.