Authenticity hounds be damned. This was one good show.
Peter Hook is a rock ‘n’ roll outcast. A survivor of Joy Division, Hooky wouldn’t survive New Order, a band that continues to record new music even after parting ways with its founding bass player. From the outside we want to take members of fractious bands such as Hook and Bernard Sumner, Morrissey and Johnny Marr, and shake them. Make them play together. But we are not them and we cannot truly know. We can just buy tickets when offshoots such as Peter Hook and the Light come to town and lay down our dreams of authenticity and enjoy the amazing body of work they bring.
A sold out crowd greeted Hook and the Light, who arrived to play both versions of Substance back to front. For those not in the know, the New Order version, released in 1987, collects the band’s singles, while the Joy Division version, released a year later, contains that band’s non-album tracks such “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Looking trimmer than his prior visit, Hook treated us to 31 songs and a show that lasted longer than two and a half hours.
The show was split into two distinct parts. Hook elected to begin with the New Order section first, inducing the audience to dance with hits ranging from “Blue Monday” to “True Faith.” The light show matched the upbeat throb of the songs, all strobing lights and colors and fog. Hook even added three tracks not found on Substance at the beginning, kicking off the show with “Lonesome Tonight” the B-side of “Thieves Like Us.” A few years ago, Hook came to town to play Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies. This was a much tighter show, with Hook ceding the higher vocal parts to other members of his band. He may have the Ian Curtis growl down, but Hook can’t hit those high Sumner parts.
During the show, Hook prowled the stage like a younger man, leaping onto amplifiers and staring down the crowd. Songs such as “Ceremony,” “Temptation” and “Everything’s Gone Green” were note-perfect. The only stumbling point was “Bizarre Love Triangle” where the synths were turned down too low.
Hook finished the New Order portion with “1963” and then took a short break. After 16 songs, most concerts would be over, but Hook and the Light still had another 15 Joy Division songs for us. While the stage was all alight and the Wonder Ballroom a dance club during the New Order songs, a much starker setup complemented the Joy Division material. Echoing the grim sheen that hangs over Ian Curtis’ songs of despair, the no-frills performance matched their damning intensity.
Hook’s gravelly voice is perfect for these songs. Once again, the band kicked off with four rarities (“No Love Lost,” “Glass”) before performing the Substance material. From the spare, primal “Warsaw” to the hint of what would come with New Order on “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the final segment of the show was an emotionally jarring run through some of the finest post-rock songs ever written. From harrowing “She’s Lost Control” to the almost stately “Atmosphere,” this is the closest you can get to seeing Joy Division live. Authenticity hounds be damned. This was one good show and Peter Hook has finally earned his due, even if he’s operating outside the brand name that initially made him famous.