Photographs by Randall Vasquez
Through the 80s, and 90s for that matter, New Order and their predecessors Joy Division were my mainstays, probably to the point I made everyone around me sick of them. New Order’s 1987 compilation of 12” singles Substance was about the only thing to keep my ears company until the release the following year of Joy Division’s compilation with the same name.
Bassist Peter Hook has been estranged from the others in New Order but has been out on his own with his band The Light who have been touring around playing albums in full. The others released the very solid Music Complete album last year, their first without Hooky, but this current tour is his most ambitious.
Hooky brought the Light to Toronto last night for their 400th gig, a feat that New Order couldn’t meet, as he stated from the start of the night. The final stop on a North American tour doing both Substance compilations, which are both bands’ biggest albums on this side of the pond. Naturally the Danforth Music Hall was sold out and packed with kids my age.
Opening with “Lonesome Tonight” and “Procession” two New Order Substance B-sides, Hook and his 4 fellow band members made like the last 30 years never happened over the course of 2 hours and 45 minutes, with a quick break between sets. The band played Substance in earnest by the fourth song when they aired out “Ceremony” which really got the beer-soaked crowd roaring and singing along.
Hooky managed most of the vocals while the band stayed pretty true to the Substance recorded versions and played that album in its entirety and in order. Sticking to this version really showed how much songs like “Confusion” and “State of the Nation” have dated and probably could have been left off the set, or done with a re-working. However there were many highlights, one main one being hearing many of these New Order songs for the first time live, even after catching them a number of times during their heyday. “True Faith”, “Temptation” and “The Perfect Kiss” were also highlights although the 75 minute New Order set should have ended with “True Faith” rather than “1963”, one of my favourite New Order songs, but the B-side didn’t register with many in the crowd.
While the crowd was clearly in their element, temporarily taken back 30 years, I discovered I didn’t wax nostalgic as much as I thought. As impressive the sound, the playing and the energy was, I missed the spontaneity and experimentation of old. This was what I assume going to one of them Classic Albums Live gigs would be like. It was all very predictable and void of the danger of going off the rails.
The Joy Division set closed the night and was definitely the more compelling of the two sets. Starting with “No Love Lost”, an awesome into if there ever was one, and proceeded to play through most of Joy Division’s Substance. Hooky’s vocals are more suited to Joy Division and those tracks came off more vital and relevant as the electronics used were not dated. For virtually everyone in the room, this would be the first time they’ve heard these songs in a live setting and for that it was cathartic.
Hooky dedicated “Atmosphere” to the recently departed Craig Gill from the Inspiral Carpets and then closed out the night with “Love Will Tear Us Apart” inspiring a sing-along that I’m can’t decide my feelings on.
While the night delivered what was promised and probably what 95% of that crowd wanted, I left with mixed feelings. Everything should have been great, and I can’t fault anything with the night, but I left a little too sugar-coated. Very happy to experience, but not sure I would again.