New Order, Newer Order, Newest Order

imagesI used to hide my New Order CDs in the closet so friends wouldn’t see them; it was middle school, 1995, and if you didn’t listen to hip hop, punk rock, or the radio, you were a fucking loser. Fitting in was obviously the most important thing ever at that age, but we all needed secrets, whether sexual orientation, murder fantasies, or pop music with profoundly poor lyrics.

Eighteen years later, as I peddled my bike down Damen after work to go see Peter Hook and the Light, I couldn’t help but feel a little smug. I was going to a sold-out concert featuring the bass player of Joy Division and New Order, after all those years of hiding the CDs, after everyone realized that the Offspring and House of Pain sucked. I was right all along.

When I arrived at what I thought was the entrance of the Double Door, I saw the backs of the band through a giant window as they played “Ceremony,” the simultaneous funeral and birth of Joy Division and New Order, respectively. It sort of made sense that their backs were to me, as well as the other guys trying to ascertain the entrance’s whereabouts; the members of New Order have always been notorious assholes – especially Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.

Peter Hook left New Order in 2008. According to Bernard Sumner, Hooky was DJing too much. He’d just come out of rehab for alcoholism, and was “…A worse person…a very angry man.” But the two scarcely ever got along. Hooky’s esoteric bass-playing style, in which he hangs over the instrument like a sloth, supposedly began in Joy Division, when he had to get his ear and eyes close enough to the strings to hear and see what he was doing, because Sumner’s guitar was too loud. According to Hooky in 2001, Sumner had only complimented him twice in the 30-plus years they’d worked together. Hooky said that if they ever reconciled, it would be “On the end of a pair of dueling pistols.” New Order is also touring with the three remaining band members. Both bands are playing New Order and Joy Division songs. It’s war.

So while I was happy so have supposedly been right about New Order’s credibility all along, I was also nervous that the show would be a total fucking embarrassment. After all, this was a guy who, in spite of his influence, was busted for fake DJing in 2006. Furthermore, Hooky’s 57 years old, and playing New Order songs with a bunch of young guys he’s hired and trained to play New Order songs. So, in a way, I was going to see a New Order cover band for $25.

I finally found the entrance, scrambled inside, and shouted my last name to the will call guy. He gave me the thumbs up and shouted back, “I can’t fucking believe how good he sounds.” The closer I got to the stage, the more I believed him. “Ceremony” ended and its B-side, “Procession,” began, the first song I deemed, on an airplane back from England in 1995, I would play for friends when I was ready to tell them that I listened to New Order, since it had guitars in it, and was fast, kind of like punk.

Peter Hook and the Light played the entirety of Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies, New Order’s first two albums, as well as their punctuating singles and B-sides. The door guy was right – they sounded incredible. They almost sounded too good, as though the material had been re-mastered and released in 2024. I’m not suggesting that they were faking it; every strum, every 16th note, every mouth movement was in synch with what I was hearing. I think Peter Hook and his musicians are simply better than New Order was 30 years ago. Does that call New Order’s songwriting prowess into question? It certainly ought to, but it doesn’t matter – when I looked around the audience to try and find Jason Sommer, who’d told me about the concert, I had honestly never seen so many genuinely happy faces at a concert in my entire life.

The band closed with “Blue Monday,” the top-selling 12″ record, ever, in the world. But the song was almost entirely prerecorded. Except the bass lines, which Hooky played loud and forthrightly over the backing track, to audience approval.

Last year, when New Order reformed and began touring without him, Hooky noticed something: “I’ve watched so-called ‘New Order’ playing in Auckland and Tom Chapman is miming along to my bass on tape. ‘Round & Round’. Have a look at it. He’s got his fingers on the low and you can hear my high bass in the background. So he’s miming. It’s the Milli Vanilli of bass.”

So Hooky, basically, mimed the entire band, except for his bass lines, to close out the set. Even after he had been caught fake-DJing his way through a song in Australia years before. The other two guitar players just sort of stood there and let it happen. The drummer listlessly tapped the hi-hat of his drum kit after awhile, while Hooky, whose vocals had been gruff and deeper than Sumner’s, played his high bass accordingly and wailed in Bernard Sumner’s trademark boyish wail, “How does it feel/to treat me like you do?”

In 2001, during a concert in Tokyo after New Order had recently reformed, Bernard Sumner introduced 1987 hit “Touched By the Hand of God” by saying, “This one’s about Hooky’s bass,” and Hooky nearly fell over. He had never once been complimented by Sumner.

By ending the night with “Blue Monday,” Peter Hook opened his arms to his former bandmate, his former friend, while flipping him off at the same time. New Order never could have existed without Peter Hook, nor Peter Hook without New Order. The show ended, and the audience couldn’t have been happier. But, I suspect, Hooky couldn’t have been lonelier.

 

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