Former Joy Division and New Order bassist is all about the Substance as he reminds the East Midlands of his impressive back catalogue.

It’s now been a decade since Peter Hook parted company with New Order, and 37 years since the untimely demise of Joy Division, and the bassist/guitarist shows no signs of letting the past get in the way of the future.

His band have undertaken a UK tour to play two greatest hits sets.  The first set features material from  New Order’s Substance 1987, the album that showcased the best of the band’s first 6 years of material.  The second set is focused the Joy Division compilation album of the same name which came out a full 8 years after the band disbanded following the tragic suicide of lyricist and vocalist Ian Curtis in 1980.

The band did the same set in North America last year and it is clear that it has been finely tuned into a lean, mean musical machine, no small feat considering the 2hr 30 minute run-time.

Bang on time the band appear and Peter Hook immediately seems to be perplexed by the large amount of fans in attendance.  In case anyone had forgotten he kindly reminded the 1,500 or so attendees that “You’re missing Ant & Dec don’t you know!!”.  Fortunately every man and woman in the audience could not give a stuff about the irksome chirpy Geordie’s and solely wanted live music…..and wanted it now.  An evening vegetating watching light entertainment was not on the agenda for Nottingham’s music lovers tonight.

The slow crawl of “In A Lonely Place” kicks off the set before “Procession” powers to the fore and gets the pulses racing.  Inevitably the iconic track “Ceremony” has the notoriously sticky floorboards shaking and when the often sampled drumbeat to “Blue Monday” rears it’s rhythmic head and the words “How does it feel?” are put forth the answer is as obvious as it is unanimous.

Other tracks that delight are “Everything’s Gone Green” in which the “it seems like I’ve been here before” refrain gets the full audience participation treatment.  “State Of The Nation” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” sound better in the live environment than on the album with the extra weight and punch of the guitars cutting through the synthesizer groove.

The first set ends with melodic “1963” and it a relatively short break before the band are back out with Part Two of the evening.

Judging by the t-shirts in the bustling Rock City there seem to be more Joy Division fans than New Order.  Either that or the JD t-shirts are easier to come by.  Whatever the case it’s clear that the anticipation of the second set is causing some considerable excitement amongst the masses and rightly so.

The punkier and more caustic sounds of the music of Joy Division has provided inspiration to hundreds of well-known bands including Nine Inch Nails, who covered the stunning “Dead Souls”, a highlight in tonight’s set, on the soundtrack for the gothic revenge movie “The Crow” back in 1994, to Nirvana, The Cure and Radiohead.

For those too young or unable to experience Joy Division back in the day this is the closet they will get, and every one of them will gladly take it.  The band only brought out two albums in the time in which they were active, Unknown Pleasures in 1979 followed by Closer the year after, although various compilations and additional tracks etc have surfaced since then.  Like so many bands that burned brightly but only for a short period of time, their legacy is secured and it is that legacy that Hook and his cohorts wish to honour.

The threatening basslines backed by the jagged guitar riffs of “No Love Lost” hail the arrival of the second half of the evening and we are off to a flyer.  When “Novelty” kicks in straight after it’s clear that the next hour or so is going to be very special indeed.

Given the quality of the music that Hook has to choose from it would be difficult to do a bad JD set.  The music speaks for itself.  However, in his hands it does mean something more and his commitment and pride in the music shines through.  From “Komakino” to “Warsaw” to “Transmission” it’s a vibrant and often ethereal journey to the heart of what made the band so special.

The evening closes with the seminal “Love Will Tear Us Apart” once a vulnerable and delicate ode to the difficulties of Curtis’ relationship with his wife, now turned into a celebration of the power of the music that Joy Division created.

I suppose if you asked fans of Peter Hook which band of his they enjoyed more then the collective answer who more likely than not lean heavier towards Joy Division than New Order.  That said one of the great things about tonight is those same fans did not have to make choice.  Hook gave them it all.  Lock, stock and several smoking barrels.

Tonight Hook and his gang of musical marauders proved…..it’s all about the Substance.

Donnie’s Rating: New Order Set – 8/10
Joy Division Set – 9/10