Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Show review: Peter Hook & The Light at Metro, 9/23

By Gene Wagendorf III 

The Light getting ready to play "Colony"
Joy Division bassist Peter Hook brought his new band, The Light, to Metro on Friday for a celebration of that legendary band's music. American audiences never got a chance to experience most of those songs live, as front-man Ian Curtis tragically took his life just before the kickoff of a scheduled U.S. tour. With the subsequent forming and touring of New Order we were given covers of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "She's Lost Control," but were left to daydream about what tracks like "Atrocity Exhibition" and "Eternal" felt like in-person. Last year Hook took The Light around to play the classic album Unknown Pleasures, and this time he offered us a peek at Joy Division's second album, Closer.

After a quick tear through the instrumental "Incubation," drummer Paul Kehoe got the audience's blood pumping with the determined pounce of "Dead Souls." The song built momentum steadily, working the audience into a frenzy for two minutes before Hook came in on vocals. By the time he shouted "they keep calling me" he had most of the room screaming along giddily. Giddy isn't normally a word I would use in any conversation about Joy Division, but the combination of the electricity of the song and the relief that Hook seemed to do Curtis' vocals justice was a marvelous feeling. No, this wasn't Joy Division- but it was damn close.

The first song from Closer performed was its opening track, "Atrocity Exhibition," which again found Kehoe leading the charge. Hook was backed by an additional bassist, his son, Jack Bates, who handled the task without missing a beat. "Isolation" was the first tune to turn the floor into a dance party, and was bolstered by Hook's gravelly vocals. Curtis' voice tended to move between somber and biting, and his friend did an admirable job of staying true to that style while adding a layer of grit all his own."Colony" flexed the most muscle of the set, rolling out of the speakers like a panzer. Hearing that song sound that good took me out of the show for a moment- a reminder that, no disrespect to The Light, this wasn't Joy Division. If a song that never really stood out to me on record sounds this good live, what would it have sounded like with the original lineup in their prime?

If anyone's allowed to wear his band's shirt, it's Peter Hook
The first set swooned to a close with a heartbreaking rendition of "Decades." Closer may be near the top of the list of least feel-good-records of all time, a beautiful tour through the darker parts of the psyche. The Light's cover of "Decades" brought that look-back to a satisfying and solemn close. Far more "thank yous" than "rock n' rolls" were shouted as the group left he stage, gearing up for their second act. I called this show a celebration, and the celebratory mood was kicked off in earnest when Hooky and crew returned and blasted through "Digital," instantly turning the contemplative crowd into a giant mosh pit. The song looked even more cathartic for the singer than it did the riled up masses; his eyes closed tight while howling "I need you here today, don't ever fade away, don't ever fade way."

True-to-the-original versions of "She's Lost Control" and "Shadowplay" had people dancing and air-bassing before totally loosing their shit when Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan appeared onstage. His introduction was drowned out by cheers, which in turn were only eclipsed in volume by the gurgling throb of Hook's bass on the beginning of "Transmission." Corgan's voice is about as far from Curtis' as you can get, but he does have experience making Joy Division tracks his own (his early-90s side project Starchildren recorded a cover of "Isolation" for a Joy Division tribute album). He hit his stride while screaming the song's "dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio" climax and carried it over into "Love Will Tear Us Apart." That song strikes me as the one Corgan wish he wrote, but I could probably say that of most sane individuals. Admittedly, I didn't hear much of his vocals because, like the rest of the crowd, I was too busy singing and dancing.

Billy Corgan pumps up the crowd for "Transmission"
The most emotional moment of the night came at the beginning of The Light's encore, when Hook pulled the opening notes of "Atmosphere" from his bass. I will forever associate the song with the final scene of Anton Corbijn's film "Control," in which Ian Curtis' wife Deborah comes home to find that her husband has taken his life. The stalled, thumping drums begin as she screams for help, the sound of their newborn child crying in the background. Nothing so terrible happened at Metro, and Hook did a remarkable job of smoothing his voice for the song. "Atmosphere" sounded incredibly fresh, and like many of the other songs played during the night is just as relevant now as when it was recorded. That will be the evening's enduring impression, that Joy Division could have happened now or in twenty years and still be edgy, still be affecting and still be one-of-a-kind. Hook ended his celebration as Joy Division ended their career, with "Ceremony." One final song, one final classic bass line, one final dance party, but hopefully not the last hurrah.


Check out more show reviews:
Swans at Bottom Lounge
Freelance Whales at Empty Bottle
Mayor Daley, Bad Drugs at Empty Bottle
Braids at the Empty Bottle
Peter Bjorn & John at Empty Bottle


  1. I had a great time at the show in NYC. The set list was amazing and they sounded great live, my favorites were Isolation, Heart & soul and Decades, and Atmosphere. After the show I was Lucky enough to go backstage and meet Peter Hook and took some pictures and got some autographs.

    Here is the pic of the Venue



    Here is a pic of the setlist.


    Here is Hook signing some autographs for me.




    This is a little souvineer that I bought for myself at the show for $20, which is not bad at all, usually they are $30


    Sorry that I could not take any pictures during the show, because my camera sucks in the dark.

  2. What a legend, and truly due one last hurrah!