Joy Division never played the States. After years of gigging in Britain, the influential new wave band scheduled a U.S. tour in 1980, which was nixed after singer Ian Curtis' suicide that spring -- two weeks before the American tour.
"But Chicago was one of the first places we played with New Order," bassist Peter Hook says of the equally influential, rechristened trio that continued on without Curtis.
Hook is back in Chicago this weekend -- but without New Order. The three players, including singer-guitarist Bernard Sumner and drummer Stephen Morris, have always had a contentious relationship, which finally imploded earlier this year. Just a couple of weeks ago, in fact, New Order announced its first gigs since 2006 and the first shows ever without Hook: two charity concerts next month in Brussels and Paris, with bassist Tom Chapman.
Shortly after that announcement, Hook took to his own website to proclaim: "Everyone knows that New Order without Peter Hook is like Queen without Freddie Mercury, U2 without The Edge, Sooty without Sweep!" (the latter being beloved puppets on British TV).
It's a tad egotistical for Hook to say that, but it doesn't make it wrong.
PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT
with California Wives, DJ Boy Alberto, DJ JS
• 9 p.m. Sept. 23
• Metro, 3730 N. Clark
• Tickets: $21, (773) 549-4140, metrochicago.com
Hook's chiming, melodic bass playing is what makes New Order's synth-pop sound instantly recognizable.
"It's an unfortunate thing that comes down to the bickering," Hook told the Sun-Times last week. "I wish we'd stop bickering, but it's the tradition of the band. This was handled badly. The fact that they've booked shows to play New Order songs fills me with joy. New Order was always reluctant to tour. It drove me mad. I don't wish them ill in playing, I just wish they wouldn't handle things this way."
Hook spoke from a downtown hotel room in New York City, just after the 9/11 anniversary. On that day 10 years ago, Hook remembers where he was: "Rehearsing with New Order, quite happily."
Hook's current project goes back to another happier time: to the late-'70s years with Joy Division. Peter Hook & the Light was formed last year for a single event in which the new band performed the Joy Division album "Unknown Pleasures." The band eventually toured a bit, and now is back again doing the entirety of the album "Closer."
"The goal originally was just for me to celebrate 30 years of Ian Curtis' life at my club in Manchester," Hook said. "I quite naively never thought we'd do it anywhere else. But people heard it and liked it, and we played everywhere. Now it's my day job. It's a great compliment to the songwriting of Joy Division and the memory."
Most of the memories are quite good, he added. "Joy Division was really very united, the four of us. The bickering, shall we say, had not yet begun. It was a very pleasant time, most harmonious."
Hook is also writing a book about his Joy Division days, aiming to publish next summer.