Show Review: Peter Hook and The Light performing Unknown Pleasures at The Mezzanine, 12/10/2010

by Jonathan Pirro on December 11, 2010

Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order

Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order

2010 has been a year for a different kind of performance: the full-album gig. While not necessarily filled with the same wonder and anticipation that your more common setlist will contain, a full-album set guarantees the kind of rapt excitement that comes with knowing that your favorite songs from that record will all be played, and the surprises at the end of the set become that much more exciting. There have been a few artists who selected the albums that truly defined their careers — Weezer performed their classics, the Blue Album and Pinkerton, and Roger Waters recreated The Wall with modernized visuals and ideas, capturing much of the same excitement and wonder that had accompanied the album upon its release in 1979. In the case of Peter Hook, co-founder and bass guitarist of the seminal post-punk masters Joy Division and New Order, Friday night’s performance at the Mezzanine was truly the best time and place for a full performance of Unknown Pleasures, the album that began Joy Division’s career, and the only record to be released before the death of their singer, Ian Curtis, in 1980.

Despite the well-chosen collection of classic death rock and post-punk tunes that greeted the crowd upon their entrance at 9:00pm, the atmosphere was extremely tense and only found itself accentuated when an hour and a half passed before any sign that a show was ready to go on. Just after 10:30, the large projector screens on the walls flickered to life, substituting the slot for an opening band with a 20-minute-long film that served as a brief history of Joy Division, New Order, Factory Records, and the Manchester music scene in the 1970s and 1980s. The fact that the show was sold to overflowing — most likely with devoted Joy Division fans who knew their heroes’ stories by heart — might have been the first clue that this wasn’t the best idea as an introduction to the show. It took only about 5 minutes of the film before loud shouting, booing, and impatient applause began peaking through the crowd. While being an informative piece, it was perhaps a bit too long — or, at least, too long for the crowd at hand.

Hook with son Jack Bates and keyboardist Andy Poole

Hook with son Jack Bates and keyboardist Andy Poole

Any displeasure expressed by the crowd, however, seemed to completely melt away upon the arrival of the charismatic and energetic Hook, who bounced onto the stage and slung his guitar around his neck with all the fervor of a wild young musician at the peak of his career. While Hook took both bass and lead vocal roles, he was backed by his son Jack Bates on a second bass guitar, along with guitarist Nat Wason, drummer Paul Kehoe and keyboardist Andy Poole, who together are collectively known as The Light. With little more than a glance over their ecstatic onlookers, Hook and The Light launched into their set with “No Love Lost”, a track from Joy Division’s recorded debut, the An Ideal For Living EP. The cheers and shouts that followed the song’s final notes made it clear that even an almost two-hour wait could do little to dampen the crowd’s explosive enthusiasm.

After a few more Joy Division classics, drummer Paul Kehoe began pounding out the steady but danceable drumbeat that heralded the beginning of Unknown Pleasures’ opening track, “Disorder”. Hook had barely afforded a moment’s pause between the first few songs of the night, and an even more rigid schedule was applied as the band churned through the album from start to finish. The live setting and modern-day gear and amplification did well to bring a fuller, darker, and wilder feel to the performance of the record, with songs such as “She’s Lost Control” rising to new levels of the wild and almost sinister, and Hook did an impressive job of stepping into Ian Curtis’ vocal role, his own voice putting a darkly wonderous spin on “Insight” and “Day Of The Lords”. The performance of “Shadowplay” was easily the most energetic, and saw Hook jumping back and forth across the small stage, while guitarist Nat Wason thrashed about and filled the corners of the club with all manner of violent scrapings and howlings of his instrument.

Hook with guitarist Nat Watson

Hook with guitarist Nat Wason

If the opening set of four extra Joy Division songs was any indication, it was clear more that was to come following the violent blast of “Interzone” (which got the first mosh pit of the night) and the album’s haunting closer, “I Remember Nothing”, which saw Hook delicately placing his bass down on its stand before departing from the stage, while The Light brought the song to a mesmerizing finish. When the quintet returned, Hook greeted the crowd — his first words spoken for the entire night — and offered up an exciting three-song encore, in the form of “Atmosphere”, “Transmission”, and the well-loved classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. The house lights had begun to fade into view and the music into the speakers when Hook suddenly burst back onto the stage, hugging his stage manager tightly and praising the work that he had done to get this tour up and running. The Light seemed a bit discombobulated as they hurried back onstage to join him, but nonetheless pulled off a brilliant performance of “Ceremony” to finish the night.

Having been born 5 years after the release of Unknown Pleasures, I never had the chance to experience Joy Division in their heyday, and was unable to see New Order in any degree of their classic form; this night, therefore, was an amazing sight to behold. With the set composed of an entire record, as well as eight additional Joy Division classics, it was the ultimate treat to the dedicated Joy Division fan, especially with the precision and gusto which Hook and The Light gave to the show. Despite turning 55 next year, Hook shows all the vitality of his younger years, and that level of vigor and energy was truly the best element of this performance of Unknown Pleasures.

Peter Hook's setlist, minus encores

Peter Hook's setlist, minus encores

Encores:

  1. Atmosphere
  2. Transmission
  3. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  4. Ceremony

All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick December 13, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I thought the band did an honorable job, but it seemed Hook was taking the ‘piss’. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I would have expected the bass player from JD to at least play the bass!!! He worked it well as a prop, but to say he played it for more than 5 minutes for the whole show is being extremely generous. No one plays bass like him, and having the bass being so prominent in JD (and New Order) songs, it’s unforgiving that some of his most ‘famous’ basslines weren’t even attempted.

None the less, it was nice to see the album played in a live setting, I agree with the reviewer that the intro video was overkill to a room of JD fans.

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test December 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm

This show was a total rip off! I do not understand how it got to be sold out.

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stellarlina December 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Peter Hook has always been my least favorite member of both Joy Division and New Order because he seemed to be a pretty self-important gasbag who strikes an extraordinary amount of rock poses. After standing around watching a documentary that I’ve seen before (and you can find on youtube), the least he could have done was address the audience, say hello… anything. Instead, his lackluster performance only picked up towards the end. The band itself sounded great. I was too young to have ever seen JD live, so this was the closest I was ever going to get. However, I highly recommend the JD tribute band, Dead Souls. That was a much more enjoyable act than Peter Hook (unfortunately).

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