Wonder Ballroom
Portland, OR 05/11/2018

Peter Hook and his band, the Light, have come a long way, evolving from a curiosity to perhaps the true keepers of the Joy Division legacy. A few years ago, a small crowd of curious Portlanders stood in a half-filled Doug Fir Lounge, waiting for Hook (who no longer has the New Order name to boost ticket sales) to play Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. I’ve been to each of Hook’s four Portland shows since he began the project, and each time the audience seems bigger and more excited. A sold-out show last week at the Wonder Ballroom not only spoke to the continued popularity of both Substance collections, but also that Hooky puts on one hell of a concert.

Running 150 minutes and covering a plethora of songs, Hook’s setlist not only included both versions of Substance but a few rarities sprinkled in. Yes, we all know “True Faith” would follow “Bizarre Love Triangle” in the set, but how could we know that Hook would open the Joy Division set with a heart-wrenching version of “Decades”?

With each return to town, Hook is looking fitter, his voice and playing in better form. He may be a bit of ham, but most men his age don’t jump upon speakers during shows nor do they play for two-and-a-half hours. Yes, a slight suspension of disbelief may be necessary when watching Hook play these songs but Ian Curtis is dead and the other members of New Order have gone their own way. It’s still great to hear these songs played live, authenticity hounds be damned.

Hook and his band began the show with the New Order songs, warming up the crowd with that incarnation’s more buoyant dance numbers before bringing things down a bit with the Joy Division section. Beyond a few words at the beginning before playing non-Substance tracks “Too Late” and “Lonesome Tonight,” Hook spent most of the show completely absorbed in his bass playing. When the hits finally kicked, the audience responded by screaming and dancing along to “Blue Monday” and “Temptation.”

Like last time around, the Joy Division section served as a fine sampler of a band that was here for too short a time. The final one-two punch of “Atmosphere” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” joined perhaps two of the best rock songs of the past 40 years. And yes, it is impossible to see a Joy Division concert circa 2018, but thanks to Peter Hook & the Light, this is the damned closest we can get.

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