Hook has taken the music of his past and given it a new life.
Album performance fever has taken fans (and music makers) by storm this last decade. Though fans could just as easily sit at home and play their well-worn copy of a favorite record, it appears that nothing beats traipsing down to the local concert hall for an airing of past favorite. Former New Order/Joy Division man Peter Hook has been getting up to this business in recent times, now resulting in the issue of four complete live shows from the last several years.
Since his departure from New Order in 2007, Hook has grown a reputation for powerful live performances with The Light and these recordings reveal that the talk has been more than idle chatter. More than give us faithful readings of four classic albums by his old bands, Hook reminds us of the treasures to be found in each group’s oeuvre. Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasure, captured at Leeds’ Cockpit, reveals and reminds us of the sheer danger heard in pieces such as “Disorder” and “Day of the Lords.” Even the expected “Love Will Tear us Apart” and “Transmission” brim with life that sounds positively fresh and deeply alive. Equal to that is the sense that Hook himself delivers the music with an enthusiasm too few artists carry to the stage once they’ve achieved the status of an elder player.
All that’s there in a take on Joy Division’s 1980 release Closer. Non-LP rarities rub elbows with would be hits such as the rip ‘n’ snort “Atrocity Exhibition” and “Heart and Soul.” The juxtaposition of these pieces issues further testament to original group’s inventiveness while advancing Hook’s cause that he could still lead a lean and hungry outfit after all these years. This isn’t just about the craft of a particular album or albums it’s about the overall craft of a band.
This also isn’t about unnecessarily faithful renditions, either. A brilliantly ragged take on “Ceremony” from the 2013 Movement tour raises hair and flesh alike no matter that both performer and audience have heard the tune countless times. “Chosen Time,” a song that might be overlooked outside the close circles of the New Order faithful moves with a similar urgency and brilliance, smashing expectations and thwarting rules as it winds its way through an all-too-short four minutes and change. Finally, we’re reminded, especially by the original album’s closer, “Denial,” that the line between Joy Division and New Order wasn’t always as clearly drawn or defined as some would have it. New Order was not its predecessor’s tamer cousin but, instead, a continuously refined vision of a music force that demanded we reckon and recognize its formidable nature.
You can even hear the similarities on the hasty and furious “Age of Consent,” culled from a performance of Power, Corruption & Lies, an undeniably great moment from New Order and maybe the group’s finest early hour. “Temptation” and “Blue Monday,” two of the most recognizable pieces from that record, are wheeled out but not with the perfunctory tendencies that too many acts wheel out their greatest hits. Doubtless some will take solace in the well-established original renditions but there’s something far more exciting about the way they’re delivered here.
In the end, Hook has done what we hope all our heroes can do: He’s taken the music of his past and given it a new life, shown us why the songs have had staying power even when the band or bands which first brought those songs to life no longer exists in the classic sense. There aren’t many outfits from the era that are revisiting their pasts with this kind of vitality, probing the possibilities and emerging with answers that suggest we need to take a longer and deeper listen and look at music we may have come to take for granted. In this way, Hook hasn’t just given us four records that toy with the past, he’s given us a real gift that we can come to treasure for some time to come.