Peter Hook and The Light – [Live]

Friday, 23 September 2011

Darkness is a funny thing. Sometimes it can be filled with emptiness and despair but, if you look hard enough, it can also contain a wink of hope and elements of profound beauty. Over the years, many, many bands have tried to create dark music and most have failed, often times comically. It takes more than some de-tuning, minor chord progressions and charcoal-hued eye makeup to make music that is moody but also has a complexity and depth of character. On Saturday, with an I-didn’t-know-it-could-hold-this-many crowd at Mezzanine in San Francisco, Peter Hook put on a clinic to demonstrate just how it’s done.

After last year’s Unknown Pleasures tour, Peter Hook and his band The Light returned to honor the music of Joy Division and play the more wistful Closer for a few select U.S. dates. Those lucky enough to see one of the shows were treated to a slice of influential music from thirty years ago which continues to have a profoundly positive impact on some of the great musicians of today.

Hook provided his signature bass lines and was also responsible for channeling the late Ian Curtis on vocals. Seeing one of the best bassists on the planet in such an intimate setting was certainly one of the biggest draws of the evening. The fact that he would be playing the second of only two Joy Division studio albums was irresistible for anyone who wants to experience such a significant and vital chapter in music. Hook was joined onstage by Nat Watson playing guitar and impromptu beer-bottle slide guitar, Paul Kehoe on drums, Andy Poole on keyboards and Hook’s son, Jack Bates on a second bass.   

I was a little distracted by the masses, some of whom didn’t really seem to understand why we were all there. I heard winning lines from the crowd which included “Who’s the lead singer?,” “Do you know what time Joy Division goes on?,” and, my favorite, “Hey duuuude, turn up yer gee-tar, I can hardly hear you!” Ugh. When Hooky and band emerged, resplendent with his Union Jack-emblazoned Joy Division shirt, I saw that there were others in the crowd who did, in fact, know the significance of the show we were about witness. Before diving into the Closer album, the band opened with “Incubation” and a few other appetizers including “Dead Souls.” I’m still hard-pressed to pick a winner between the original JD version and the 1994 Nine Inch Nails cover which was featured on The Crow motion picture soundtrack.

Led by Hook’s scowling but affable stage presence, The Light then began their treatment of the introspective Closer album, start to finish. Stand-out tracks included “Isolation” with Kehoe contributing a military march feel, “Heart and Soul” and “Twenty Four Hours” which allowed Hook to really explore Curtis’ signature baritone register and Watson to show off just how well he knows Joy Division and New Order alumnus Bernard Sumner’s distinctive playing style. After returning to the stage for an encore, the band finished the evening with familiar post-punk gems including a sparse and shimmering rendition of “Atmosphere,” the industrial drone of “She’s Lost Control,” “Transmission” with its feverish, imploring vocals and the song named NME’s best single of all time “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Of the multitude of LWTUA covers, I’ve yet to hear of one that compares favorably to the original and this is about as close as we will ever get to hearing it again in a live setting. While most of the tracks were delivered faithfully to their recorded counterparts, there were some departures, most notably by Watson on guitar. There seemed to be such an understanding and reverence for the spirit of the original that the impeccably executed revisions brought a great life to the arrangements while maintaining deference.

As for the inevitable comparisons between Hook and Ian Curtis, I think the people trying to make them miss the point. This tour is a celebration of some of the most profound music in the past thirty years. It’s an homage to a sliver of music that so many bands cite as a prime influence and it’s so well-realized that it is a little unsettling. Peter Hook and the Light delivered the intensity, mood and expressiveness that I was hoping to see in all of that darkness.

Set list:
Dead Souls
From Safety to Where
Atrocity Exhibition
A Means to an End
Heart and Soul
Twenty Four Hours
The Eternal


These Days
She’s Lost Control
Love Will Tear Us Apart



Peter Hook and The Light – Mezzanine, San Fransisco – 09/17/11

Peter Hook and The Light's tour continues. For an updated listing of dates, click here .

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