Peter Hook and the Light Granada Theater, Dallas Friday, April 24, 2015
Start with the obvious: Joy Division and the subsequent New Order have been and continue to be a big part of the soundtrack to many lives. Sadly, both bands have suffered a catastrophic loss. The 1980 suicide of Ian Curtis that ended Joy Division is obviously irreversible, though the two albums the band released have been passionately embraced by members of generations since. New Order, meanwhile, permanently fractured nearly 10 years ago, with bassist Peter Hook and guitarist Bernard Sumner maintaining a level of vitriol matched only by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Roger Waters. Fans take what they can get to experience these seminal bands, or pieces of them, live.
So it was that the appearance of Peter Hook and the Light, promoting a set list consisting of a sprinkling of New Order and complete performances of the Joy Division albums, was cause for a sell out at the Granada Theater on Friday night. The arrival of heavy weather just prior to the show did nothing to dampen the spirits of the packed Granada floor, although it may have delayed the start of the show by 30 minutes or so. During this time, the band's Twitter account was used to tease and taunt the audience on the feed the theater displays prior to performances. So when the curtain finally rose to reveal Hooky sitting on a stool plucking out the basslines to "Elegia," the crowd was frenzied.
Peter Hook's distinctive and inventive bass elevated the music of New Order, and seeing him pluck out that distinctive sound to this opening instrumental was a perfect way to start the evening. Because while he and the band could do a great job creating the music of New Order, Hook's voice in no way approximates Sumner's. More Lemmy than Bernie, Hook's growly shout-sing was at best a neutral.
For the audience, his vocal shortcomings seemed to make no difference: They came to see these iconic songs performed, plain and simple. For many in an audience that spanned multiple generations, it was the opportunity to connect the dots back to the era when New Order dominated their nights in the clubs.
Because he was singing, Hooky spent half of his time simply wearing his bass, leaving the rhythmic chores to his son Jack. Between the demands of vocal duties, Hook would join in on bass, weaving in the bass fills that were so vital to the New Order sound.
The New Order set lasted about 35 minutes, pulling mostly from Low-Life and Power, Confusion and Lies. The heavy electronica sound of the New Order songs reduced the requirement for the instrumentalists of the band, as programmed drums and synths carried the load, reducing the experience to listening more than watching. Standouts from the set included "Thieves Like Us" and "The Perfect Kiss."
After a five minute or so break, the band reappeared and presented Joy Division's Closer. Hook's voice is far-better suited to stand in for Ian Curtis, and the more analogue style of the music made for a more immediate musical experience. Starting with the tribal drumming intro to "Atrocity Exhibition," the band was clearly in its full element. Guitarist David Potts reminded the band of just how guitar-driven many of the Joy Division songs were.
While the Joy Division catalog may have been less familiar to some of the crowd, it was during these sets that the band really got to shine. A big man sporting a short mohawk, when he was not tied to the microphone Hook prowled the stage, exuberantly striking classic poses with his low-slung bass or standing with his back to the audience in front of the drum kit. This brought to mind Bruce Springsteen and the long evening of high-energy music did nothing to diminish the comparison. He was clearly having a great time, and the audience was completely in his pocket.
Another short break and the band reappeared to play Unknown Pleasures. Folks, we are talking about a long evening. Again taking a short break, the crowd calling for an encore, the band reappeared for an encore set. Besides a cracking version of "Transmission," the evening ended with the inevitable "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the audience singing along in unison. Two hours and forty-five minutes after it started, the evening ended with Hooky taking off his personalized jersey and throwing it out to the crowd.
For band and audience alike, the dots to a rich musical past were connected, and Hook's status as a legend was fully reaffirmed.
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