The city we live in, and the wider world of music lovers who know and remember the 70s and 80s, has finally turned a corner.
After a committed, years-long effort to widely tour first, his Joy Division masterpieces and then, the early works of New Order, Peter Hook, an undeniable bass god, innovator, musical (and Manchester) ambassador has achieved something brand new in the cities that need routine shaking up these days: He’s made us remember, in our bones, what it felt like, back then. He’s made a clamour, just like he and his band mates did all those years ago, he’s ripped apart the complacency and staleness that befalls even the biggest music cities in between very special visits from those very special living legends across all genres that matter, and he’s done this by doing the impossible: by reinvigorating and reinterpreting music so iconic and so deep it is tattooed upon two generations’ very marrow. Songs that feel as innate as a pulse, that beat the same way. Grooves that he alone invented, using an underappreciated instrument in all new ways, that took the masses from the Joy Division depths of the darkest places of the soul, to the transcendent crystalline New Order anthems that would define and dictate what it meant to dance in the 1980s. And not just in Manchester or England or Europe, but across the world.
Peter Hook should not have to prove anything to any one of us. He’s changed the world a couple of times already. But the world of music needs him now. New Order tours in the 80s and 90s in North America were spotty, intermittent things, but well-remembered, and attendance at those in the big and lucky Canadian and American cities is one of those badges of honour still carrying currency when you feel out a new friend or business associate to this very day. The importance of Joy Division, and of New Order, can simply not be overstated. No matter how many pints are attacked and left for dead in an evening of discussing one of our bands as deeply as our own family members, and with more invested sometimes.
With or without the cred or the opportunity to have seen New Order when New Order was intact (& included founding member Peter Hook) the music he worked to create in those formative years holds an uncommon place in millions of hearts that loves it still, like a first, best crush that never let you down. Like if Molly Ringwald’s Samantha of Sixteen Candles and her Porsche driving Adonis of substance, everyone’s boyfriend Jake Ryan, stayed young and in that first bloom-freeze frame forever, candles burning brightly, never got old or fat or yelled at one another, and definitely never ended in bitter divorce, the rusted Porsche now being bitterly fought over, their bratty and ungrateful kids never even knowing how beautiful their parents were, once, that impossible red hair now gone ashen.
New Order music still shimmers and raises the roof of any room the discs are spun in, and it always will. Joy Division still hits us in those sad places, comforting and empathetic when we are at a low. The specialness, the untouchableness of these records is well known. But what’s newer, and what really adds profound meaning to all this casual beauty of all of our younger days is that as the original players and fans all age, we are confronted with the truths of mortality everyday. In music, whether because we’re pining for that heroic singer we never got to see who will be forever mourned who died long ago, or the legends who died in 2016. Our 80s dance, post-punk, and new wave (aw, hell, the best of it has no genre at all, internet cataloging be damned) has a different lifeforce than the holier than though, mono, diner sountracked 60s. It came of age, we came of age, in the cold war. In various kinds of cold wars. The end of the century. Fear and loathing. Recessions and repressions and disconnectedness as normal. And music was then our only church, our only teacher, our only dad. This truth cuts across a bunch of genres but has a feeling. It was made by, and speaks to, creative people who aren’t about databases, lists and soundbites but know the plain truth that there is a genre called, only, Clash Music. There is a genre called, only, Joy Division Music. There is a genre called, only, Cure Music. And there is a genre called, only, New Order Music. And for many of us that last genre ended, in its original form, in 2007.
What came out of New Order’s dissolution was there for anyone fit, willing and able, to pick up the pieces and move on. Never mind the books, the press banging out the same old note, loving a feud as they do, loving to see, to fan the flames of, and to feast over any bones they can get of any ugly public breakdown, as if this majesty could be reduced to a red top headline. You need only be in one of the rooms (or watercraft) when Peter Hook has been playing with his new outfit, ably accompanied now by his son, Jack Bates, trading off highs and lows, changing the narrative and evolving, unafraid, committed, the frontman he always really was, in tour after tour now developing into an appealing singer far closer to Ian Curtis than Sumner ever was, to forget all you knew or read or wondered or grieved or griped about that band or this band or the band before; to know that this is a rare artist whose heart is bigger than his talent even; underneath that utter cool, that he breathes and lives to this music as we do, more, you know, you must know, and that the claim upon all this art and these beats is asserted because it’s right and good and erasure of the past is sometimes all you can fucking do to live again. It’s the news of the day. It has happened without much fanfare at first, with the easy sneers the now irrelevant press taught us drowned out, and been built, again, from the ground up inside a room in Manchester, and brick by brick in a new foundation of sound and feeling. You’ll know if you were there, if you’ll be there. That is, if you can get a ticket.
Peter Hook & the Light play Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall Tuesday November 29th (Sold Out).
We’ll be writing on and photographing the show when not cheering and crying as we’ve done on two continents since 2012 so check back with us for more on this story.
Words by Jacqueline Howell, all photographs by Dave MacIntyre
Here’s a snippet of that review, just about a year ago now: “Hooky’s God-like status intact, we are the lucky ones at a very special gig. Here we get no less than an assault of Joy Division and New Order’s finest, and their finest can touch you in places in the heart you thought for sure had died along with your innocence…it’s genius: unencumbered by the grind of breaking in new music and at last answerable only to himself, the fans get an intense and pitch perfect wave of nothing but gold. This alone would have been worth the trip (overseas from Canada to UK), and the ridiculously reasonable ticket price.”