Since his ouster by the rest of New Order back in 2007, Peter Hook has kept busy by actively touring the Joy Division and New Order songbooks. In 2011, the rest of New Order decided to do the same. In 2014, after a couple of decades of very minimal touring, we are now spoiled for opportunities to hear New Order and Joy Division’s music played live.
I’ve been very fortunate to have seen both parts of the band on tour: New Order in Toronto in 2012 and Peter Hook & The Light in Montreal earlier this week. The question that I’m left with is, who played it better?
Head to Head: Song Selection
New Order – 2012
This is the setlist from the New Order show that I saw:
As you can see, with the exception of “Here to Stay” and “Waiting for the Siren’s Call”, this was a greatest hits show with a heavy dose of New Order and a few Joy Division classics thrown in as a cherry on top. It was real treat to hear all of these tracks, but I certainly could have done without the later tracks and would gladly have traded them for some deeper New Order or Joy Division cuts.
Peter Hook & The Light – 2014
The following is the setlist from the Peter Hook show:
This show was much more ambitious. It started with a seven song set from the Joy Division catalogue with only “Dead Souls” and “New Dawn Fades” being more obvious choices. The band took a 10 minute intermission and then dove into playing both New Order’s Low Life and Brotherhood, in their entirety. Most of these songs hadn’t been played live in a couple of decades. Some of them probably never before in North America. The finale consisted of three massive New Order hits and the same closing track as heard at the other show, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.
Verdict: The edge goes to Peter Hook for playing a bigger show and making it special by playing deep cuts as well as a very respectable Joy Division set.
Head to Head: Vocal Performance
You would think that this would be an easy win for Bernard Sumner as he has been a lead vocalist for 30+ years. But Peter Hook makes it competitive with his winning vocals on the Joy Division songs while being very serviceable on many of the New Order tracks (particularly from the earlier records). Sumner is better on most of the New Order tracks, but is a bit unconvincing with the Joy Division material.
The Evidence: Love Will Tear Us Apart
New Order – 2012
Peter Hook & The Light – 2014
Verdict: As surprising as it may be, this is a tie.
Head to Head: Musical Performance
Both acts represent aspects of New Order. Sumner’s vocals and awkward but endearing banter/dancing reflect the sweetness and vulnerability of the music. Peter Hook’s bass lines and physicality reflect the edge and energy of the tunes. While both are very good in their own right, neither New Order nor Peter Hook manage to capture the entire essence of New Order’s music.
It’s important to note that New Order has two other original members as well. Stephen Morris is excellent on drums of course. But given his stated goal of sounding like a drum machine, his parts are fairly easily replicated. Gillian Gilbert always played the part of supporting player with much of the complex synth work being handled by pre-programming so no real advantage there.
The interesting thing about the New Order performance is that the replacement bass player (Tom Chapman) played “with his own style”. In other words, he toned down Peter Hook’s iconic basslines. This is a very curious thing considering how critical those basslines are to the New Order sound. I guess the sting of conceding this point to Peter Hook is worse than the disappointment of fans in not hearing the music as it should sound.
Peter Hook assembled a group of players (including his son on bass) capable of pulling off the authentic sound of New Order — especially with guitarist David Potts chipping in on vocals on a few tracks (There should be more of this).
As for the Joy Division tracks, Peter Hook’s outfit clearly does capture the Joy Division feeling and sound whereas New Order ends up softening the sounds due to Bernard Sumner’s vocal style.
Verdict: Another tie. If New Order did a better job in recreating Hook’s basslines as part of the mix, they would win it. Peter Hook’s very strong Joy Division set makes up for his vocal limitations on the New Order material.
Head to Head: The Final Verdict
While both were excellent, I give the slight edge to Peter Hook & The Light. In addition to the points made earlier, he brought an energy to the performance that probably never got truly exposed when he was a member of New Order.
I would love to see these folks patch things up and get back together to create new music. And I’d love it even more if Peter Hook took on a more prominent role as co-frontman with Bernard Sumner. It would make for an unbelievable live show.