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"Peter Hook and the Light" hit Toronto on Saturday, September 24rd with a solid, action-packed performance showcasing timeless tunes...
The dark and sombre band Joy Division were only together for a very brief period spanning two albums, four singles and a couple of E.P's over a handful of years (circa 1977-1980), but their influence on music, movies and even comic books, was profound. Joy Division wasn't the first band to deal with dark subject matter (and paving the way for all things “gothic”), but it was Joy Division cemented this style due to its dark intensity is the performance of the band and its troubled lead singer Ian Curtis.
The band's history was tragically cut short with the suicide of their singer Ian Curtis in 1980, just before the release of “Closer” and their one and only hit single "Love Will Tear Us Apart." The band of course rose from the ashes as New Order to even bigger success with a more pop-electronic style. What has made themendure is that they are one of the few bands with what I call a perfect discography. They only recorded and released about 40 songs in their short existence, but just about everyone is a winner. So despite New Order's success, Joy Division was always there in the shadows finding new fans along the way. Word of mouth was usually how the gospel was shared but it was also helped by covers of "Dead Souls" by Nine Inch Nails (from THE CROW soundtrack), The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Transmission” and feature films aboutthem like 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and CONTROL.
Things gotten shaken up again in 2007 when their bass player and co-founder Peter Hook (or Hooky as he is affectionately called) left the group on very bitter terms. New Order has recently reformed but without Peter Hook. Without being tied to Joy Division, Hooky has took the opportunity to revisit his earlier band with a comprehensive tour of exclusively Joy Division material. New Order generally avoided played Joy Division material and it was not until the late 90’s that JD songs started appearing in their set lists What started as a one-off gig of Joy Division material on the anniversary of Ian Curtis’s death in 2010 has blossomed into a full blow world tour this year. So the irony is that with thedeath of the classic New Order line-up, we are treated to Joy Division again.
Which brings us to Peter Hook, who brought his new five piece band Peter Hook and the Light to Toronto on their North American tour this past Saturday night (September 24). What makes this tour unique is that Joy Division never got to ever play North America (Curtis died just days before the start of their first North American tour) so rather than feeling like a reunion tour this is an event that North American Joy Division fans have never witnessed before.
The tour has been broken into two sections for different cities with one city getting all of 1979's Unknown Pleasures" and others getting 1980's "Closer" album. Both albums are classics, but I have to admit I was happy that I was getting the “Unknown Pleasures” set list over the other. I've always felt it was the better record of the two and would work best live so I wasn't disappointed. The set began with a few early no-album cuts like "No Love Lost", "Leaders of Men" and "Digital" then with a single white spotlight turned on the backdrop from “Unknown Pleasures” we are launched into the full album set. After a short break we were treated to two extended encores with classics like "Isolation", "Transmission" and of course "Love wWll Tear Us Apart" where the crowd goes completely nuts. Not bad coming from a band that was notorious for hating doing encores in the past. There are always songs that you wished they played at other shows (like in this case "Atmosphere" and "Ceremony") but that just shows how strong their small body of work has endured.
Peter Hook in concert is certainly channelling Ian Curtis but never imitating him. I was concerned during the first few songs where Hooky really only used the bass as a prop and his other bass player play the main bass parts but by half way through the set Hook was in full rock mode and playing the basses in unison creating a very thick but cohesive sound. The sound mix for his vocals tended to be muddy at times but his vocal chops have gotten stronger over the years singing lead and backup in his two side project bands Revenge and Monaco and his vocal timbre matched Ian’s quite well.
The remarkable thing about the show is how undated the material sounds. If you brought a friend to see this who had no idea who Joy Division was you'd swear it just came out last week. Peter Hook at 55 has aged well too and still has the energy to match his younger band mates (which includes his son) and his band The Light is rock solid. It would be easy to dismiss this as a cash grab from a potentially disgruntled ex-band member but this you can't fake this passion for the material. Hooky’s delivery is sincere keeping the Joy Division torch alive.
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