Gig review: Peter Hook & The Light at O2 Academy Leeds

The legendary bass player turned back the clock to his Joy Division days in one of his old band’s favourite stamping grounds.

Peter Hook and The Light at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman
Peter Hook and The Light at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman

Peter Hook & The Light’s Celebration: Joy Division finally arrived at O2 Academy Leeds after a two-year pandemic delay. The chance to hear both Unknown Pleasures and Closer played in full was always an enticing prospect.

The choice of pre-gig tunes at O2 Academy Leeds set the scene with attendees being greeted with The Sisters Of Mercy amongst other notables of the post-punk years. Joy Division’s association with Leeds was called out early in the proceedings by Hook himself when he mused: “Thinking how important Leeds was to us in the early days. The F-Club, Futurama and John Keenan.”

The link between the post-punk Leeds and Manchester’s music was forged in the gritty clubs of the two great northern cities. The scene was set for a performance of one of the most important and influential band’s first two albums.

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    Peter Hook and The Light at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman

    The expectant crowd silenced as lights dropped and Hook And The Light walked out of the darkness onto the stage. The understated entrance music was followed by Hook taking to a stool centre-stage. The support for the Joy Division albums was a short New Order set, starting with Elegia.

    Hook remained seated throughout the opening number which gently led the crowd into the evening’s offering. Dreams Never End picked up the pace, setting the tone for the balance of this short set. Procession and Regret contrast the earlier New Order material with the more polished latter day works.

    The constant throughout this section of the set is the contribution of the bass to the songs. Hooky is a master of bass-lines that drive and hook listeners into songs. The Monaco era What Do Want From Me? has the crowd warmed up and brings this opening reminder of where Joy Division’s influence would lead for the members left after the death of Ian Curtis.

    The main set consisted of the first two Joy Division albums. Atmosphere makes an appearance ahead of Unknown Pleasures classic track listing. This was the perfect way to bring the pace back down and provide a thoughtful moment. Hook took a pause to remember Curtis and before launching into the main set. This reminder of one of the most iconic singers in British music history is firmly set and purposeful. Hook sings the songs from the two influential albums, but I suspect most at the Academy are hearing echoes of Curtis.

    Peter Hook and The Light at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman

    Both albums are played in full and it was interesting to hear the progression of the band laid out like this. The guitar and bass-driven Unknown Pleasures is a classic example of the early era post-punk genre. Its influence can be heard in so many bands of the northern post-punk era.

    Closer followed shortly after Unknown Pleasures with just a year separating their release and minutes separating their performance here. Album performances often divide opinion, but they provide a context that is missing in the traditional set-lists. This was like seeing a museum dedication to songs that would lay the foundations for decades of music that followed. Like visiting a museum, it did not feel like a celebration, but this was to come.

    The final section of the night contained a best of the rest set. Digital and Transmission are highlights from before the two albums’ worth of material already played. Ceremony appears and links the Joy Division and New Order periods perfectly. The retrospective is almost complete, but the Celebration part of the event is left to the end.

    Love Will Tear Us Apart brings the lights up and sets everybody dancing and waving throughout the venue. It is a masterpiece that has stood the test of decades and is the perfect ending to a superb event.

    Peter Hook and The Light at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman

    For those who lived through the period of music covered, this was a great trip through the musical memory box. For the younger attendees, there could be no better introduction into the works of Joy Division and sign-post what was to follow.