Peter Hook & The Light
September 10, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Legendary bassist/vocalist Peter Hook and his band The Light set up shop at The Warfield recently, leading legions of fans on a musical odyssey to the past to pay homage to his Joy Division roots by playing the post-punk album gems Unknown Pleasures and Closer in their entirety.
Taking on both the late summer SF heat and the ensuing sauna-like conditions inside The Warfield, Hook jumped into the fray by playing a first set primarily focused on New Order, the band that emerged from the ashes of Joy Division. New Order was a powerhouse act in their own right, luring folks out of the shadows and on to the dancefloors of early 80s post-punk / death rock clubs worldwide.
Starting with ‘ICB’ from the 1981 Movement album, the crowd pressed up against the stage barrier began to sway and dance, transforming into a sweaty mass after just a few seconds.
New Order is such an interesting byproduct of the shift of music in the early 80s. An amalgamation of post-punk, new wave, disco, and sprinklings of what would become techno, they were a large influence on much of what would come to be termed alternative music.
You don’t have to look any further than New Order classics such as ‘Blue Monday’ (which was not played on this evening) and ‘True Faith’ (Substance – 1987) which closed this first set to get evidence of that fact. Underground dancefloor bangers by a band that many can’t place but that everyone recognizes.
By the time the final beats of ‘True Faith’ faded off into the humid distance, the crowd was already captive to Peter Hook & The Light….and the Joy Division portion had not even yet started.
After a short break to breathe and replenish liquids, the band re-emerged and blasted into the 1979 Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures with an unbridled version of ‘Disorder.’ As Hook stomped around the stage toting his bass, the band plodded through the ominous grind of ‘Day of the Lords’ with the plaintive refrain “…where will it end??.” and the crowd erupted.
As the Unknown Pleasures set unfolded, it was fascinating to see the crowd being drawn in closer. ‘Candidate’ with its serpentine groove hypnotized the room, and when the minimalist drum beat of ‘She’s Lost Control’ kicked in, the Warfield re-ignited. Frantic, flailing dance moves could be seen all around, and hoots, hollers, and screams from the crowd were injected into the mix.
After culminating Unknown Pleasures by darting through the jagged angles of the haunting ‘I Remember Nothing,’ the tribal drumming of Paul Kehoe launched ‘Atrocity Exhibition,’ the lead song from Closer (1980) ….” this is the way, step inside”.
The Closer material was delivered in a more heavy-handed fashion. Punctuated by sharp, dissonant, angular guitars, and the monotone angst heard in Hook’s vocal delivery, it is evident how this sound eventually found its way into the DNA of cutting-edge artists like Trent Reznor and NiN, Smashing Pumpkins, and Jane’s Addiction.
‘Colony’ had a now drenched crowd bouncing up and down incessantly. The stripped down ‘Decades’ (which closed the Closer set), with its new wave flair serves as this album’s signal of what was to come with New Order.
After momentarily stepping offstage for a rest and to absorb some of the well-earned ovation pouring from the fans, Peter Hook & The Light returned for a four-song encore starting with a torrid rendition of Joy Division’s classic ‘Dead Souls.’ The sonic swell of churning beats and yearning vocals immediately quieted the crowd back into a state of hypnosis.
After a quick dip back into the New Order catalog for ‘Ceremony’ (which interestingly is the final song written by Joy Division singer Ian Curtis before his suicide), the closing duo of Joy Division songs, ‘Transmission’ (“…dance….dance….dance to the radio!!!) and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (a tribute to Curtis) brought down the house.
If you just judged by the packed house of rabid fans on hand, you would swear that Joy Division and New Order were current bands with newly released material. This is a huge testimony to the reach and impact of those bands, and the on-point talents of Peter Hook & The Light to keep those bands and that material alive.
Opening up the night was El Ten Eleven (multi-instrumentalist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty). This two-man instrumental outfit from Los Angeles can connect the dots right back to New Order for some roots of its sound, as evidenced by the opener “New Year’s Eve,’ the title track from their most recent release.
Leaning heavily on driving electronic beats, loops, and effects, their sound is reminiscent of Big Data, with splashes of Daft Punk thrown in. There is a high level of solid composition, musicianship, and complex arrangements to their songs that lend an experimental dance element to their sound. In particular the tunes ‘Three and a Half Feet High and Rising’ and ‘Hot Cakes’ really resonated with the early crowd.