Live Reverb – Peter Hook & the Light play Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures,” Bluebird, 9-19-2011
At the risk of eliciting a chorus of jaded groans: Yes, Peter Hook & the Light, led by the bassist for the influential Joy Division, performed a rousing rendition of the post-punk swan song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” last night at the Bluebird in the first of two encores. Did you think they wouldn’t?
The surprise was that the revered hit may have been the worst song of the otherwise iconic, appropriate, set. Maybe Hook meant it literally when he introduced the song as “One that’s meant to leave you with a smile.”
Over the course of 90 minutes, Hook and his much younger sidemen may have won over even the most cynical, jaded post-punk hipster as they played the entire seminal Joy Division album “Unknown Pleasures,” bookended by works that spanned the band’s early career, including a few from their early incarnation as Warsaw.
Though Hook’s reputation as a difficult character preceded him — furthered by depictions of him as a whining 20-something in movies like “Closer” and “24-Hour Party People” and the well-documented feud with New Order frontman Bernard Sumner — his dedication to these classic songs quickly eschewed any of that characterization. Aside from a tendency to scream out in an off-kilter (yet strangely fitting) exuberance, Hook played a strong, tragic Ian Curtis.
More DenverThread thoughts:
Hook and company – which included his son on bass – pulled off what we actually thought was not going to happen as we started to walk in the Bluebird: they brought Joy Division to life again, and for the first time for the vast majority of the audience present. The under-the-skin feeling of what might happen was that they would only be able to replicate a portion of the seminal band’s sound – and even less of the passionate emotion behind the music – that would come across (at best) as sarcastic or embarrassing, or (at worst) insulting and sad.
We were wrong.
As the Reverb review said, there were times the set was just a tad to well-done – but that’s inevitable. After all, Hook helped create these songs, and has been playing them for over 30 years – it’s nearly impossible for him not to have altered them with a modicum of smooth. But beyond that, the Light also added a different style of urgency – maybe even a tinge of contemporary pop to it that fit surprisingly well.
More importantly, the group gifted the few hundred in the audience with a chance to catch some of the most influential rock music to be performed in the past 30 years. And we found we were hungry for it.