Peter Hook & The Light – Auckland Town Hall: May 18, 2024 (Concert Review)

On the 44th anniversary of Ian Curtis’s suicide, it feels a little strange to be once again experiencing Peter Hook and his very own embodiment of Joy Division and New Order in Tamaki Makaurau. It now takes a lot more than one hand to count how many times Hooky has visited and performed in Aotearoa.

Reminiscing past concerts in mental preparation for tonight, it was likely to be more than a performance. It was likely to be a show, to be a nostalgia trip, to be a fookin’ good night out of the fucking year, as Hooky and the Light performed songs from the Substance albums by Joy Division & New Order.

The punters line snake up and down Queen Street well before door opening, Joy Division and New Order t-shirts are prolific, and while the average age is… well… up there, there is also a large smattering of youth, a testament to the timeless fascination that Joy Division continues to pour out.

It’s full, bloody packed in fact on the dancefloor, the jump from The Powerstation to Hōro ā-Tāone o Tāmaki Makaurau has likely been a winner, aging punk royalty (and rabble) are here all in sundry, and animated conversations fill the temporal gap between door and show.

Wellington two nights beforehand gave a setlist to gaze and slather over, 32 songs, a perfect split between the two edifices that Hooky past-populated, seemed to preview hopes and dreams. But early on in the NO half, it was obvious that Tamaki Makaurau were getting their own particular show, perhaps fermented by the date’s whakapapa.

Hooky marches onstage, punching the air (a formidable stage trademark that litters the show tonight) and he and the band start messing with our heads by playing two b-side: In a Lonely Place (Ceremony) and Cries and Whispers (from Everything’s Gone Green) the trainspotters are excited early on. 

Peter Hook and the Light start to play the early NO songs, up to and around the first album, still Joy Division, the hand of Curtis still hovering above. It sounds, they sound, the songs: Hurt, EveryThing Turns Green, and Ceremony sound like how Joy Division would’ve played them. Then we headed to the clubs…

Blue Monday, the game changer, turns the room into a rave (with less ‘Eees’ though) The 80/90s are back, kind of, and with the tripping light show, the audience is reliving their better, less organized lives. Singing along is rife, random hand clapping spontaneously happens, sometimes annoyingly and phones, Jesus so many phones appear (some for far too long) And yet, even though these are the feel-good anthems, and even though they are pretty faithful (with an edginess not heard when New Order play them) I find myself losing a little faith, as the first half of the show seems to drag a little. But then I find myself also singing (badly) along in the choruses.

There is an intermission, but ice slices and orange pop aren’t available in the bar, and I’d half expected Keyboard/synthist Martin Rebelski to pop out and play a few organ tunes (nee The Abominable Dr. Phibes)

At 68, Hooky is not quite the cunt portrayed in the Joy Division biopic, and he is magnanimous in acknowledging Ian Curtis on this day, which endears him to the crowd, as the mood shifts, and the punter reposition for Substance part two.

Once again liberties have been taken with the setlist, and after a raucous version of No Love Lost, we are graced with leftfield selections including Glass from the 1979 Factory Sampler 2×7” (the original could set you back more than a grand) and Inside the Line

No longer sidelined, Hooky uses his understated vocals, in a gruffish, baritone style, not so much mimicking Curtis, but rather taking the classic songs (and with little help from friends) and presenting the audience with his version, that still hat tips Ian’s vocal brilliance. Sadly at times, the less enamored in the audience, likely Ponsonby Couples now start planning their shop at Freemans Bay Countdown, reminding each other not to forget the broccolini and Oat Milk. Not to be outdone, there are also the Courting Couples, it’s great you recent divorcees have made a connection, now can you fuck off to the back of the room to chat each other up. 

Through the 15 Joy Division (and Warsaw) songs The crowd are more than happy to join in as the refrain echo the room. Transmission and Love are obvious highlights, but because Hooky and The Light are in their favourite part of Aotearoa, we are graced with an encore, from Closer, the sublime The Eternal and finally as Decades is drawn out, Hooky marches offstage, punching the air once again, conquering hero. If you didn’t come tonight because you assumed it couldn’t be better than the 2022 show at The Powerstation… What do they say about assumption being the brother of all fuck-ups?

Note to promoter.. I expect a return show in 2026…cheers guys…

Simon Coffey

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski: