Saturday, May 1, 2021

May 1st 2018, Peter Hook and the Light at the Danforth Music Hall


There's no question in my mind that Peter Hook loves what he does. Since 2010 he and his band The Light have maintained a steady stream of live gigs all around the world playing songs from Hook's back catalog as part of Joy Division and New Order, and the excitement and enthusiasm with which the band plays all of these songs is pretty awesome to see. Starting with "Unknown Pleasures", Peter Hook and the Light have steadily worked through all of the Joy Division and New Order catalog up to 1993's release "Republic", playing epic three hour sets that are a true celebration of both bands.They're pretty incredible shows and I've thoroughly enjoyed every time I've seen them.

In 2018 Peter Hook and the Light were touring around the "Substance" albums, with Hook and the band playing both the Joy Division and New Order greatest hits compilations in their entirety which promised to be a great evening of music. The original "Substance" album from New Order was a monumental collection of tracks, pretty much the essence of the Eighties sound distilled into one album. It features singles like Blue Monday and Bizarre Love Triangle that revolutionized the dance floor and changed the way that people experienced electronic music, alongside other tracks like True Faith and The Perfect Kiss that defined the band's sound and solidified New Order's place in popular culture. And not just content to be a career defining collection of tracks, it also features all of these songs in extended form, 12" versions that spoke to the band's deep connection with club culture. I mean, seriously, there is an argument to be made that "Substance" is the greatest compilation ever released.

Not to be outdone, the Joy Division "Substance" collection is equally impressive in it's own way, bringing together a series of songs that show a rich and steady growth and discovery within the band which would eventually lead them to their later work as New Order. And while these songs may not necessarily have the popular associations that New Order's work do, Joy Divisions' music still remains just as significant to their legion of fans on a more personal and intimate level.

In an interesting choice that defied chronology, the night began with a New Order set that saw Hook and the band launching into a steady stream of singles and fan favorites that had the audience dancing and moving and singing along right from the start. There's an indescribable bliss in hearing these songs played live, a particularly heady blend of nostalgia and happiness and appreciation and energy that all comes together perfectly in my mind, a feeling so strong that even now writing this a few years later I can't help but smile while I'm remembering it. Thinking about Confusion and Thieves Like Us, or Temptation and Ceremony, or any other moment from the show I'm filled with a tremendous happiness. 

After a short break they came back and started the Joy Division set, and while it has a different sound and feel, it's still just as amazing, just as perfect as the earlier New Order material. Joy Division followed a much more traditional vocals, guitar, bass, and drums kind of sound, it's a bit more raw, a bit more primal, and that sound works especially well in a live setting, but there's also a feeling that the Joy Division material has a greater immediacy in the current musical landscape given how influential that sound has been on the Post-Punk genre, how much it's left a mark on so much of today's music. As much as I love New Order's work, it's very much temporally locked in my mind as the sound of an era (even though it was completely distinct within that era). In contrast, the Joy Division material sounds almost timeless, and many of the songs sound as though they could have been written last month, last week, or even this morning. A track like Transmission is still just as resonant and just as vital now as it was upon release in 1979, and in that way it makes perfect sense that the band would play the Joy Division material later in the set, because it sounds so much more current and contemporary.

And of course forgetting sound or influence or anything else, there's no denying that it's just amazing to be able to hear Joy Division songs being performed live. Not many people had the opportunity to see them in concert, their career was pretty brief, and New Order went a looooooong time before they were willing to play any of the Joy Division material at shows, so the chance to see Peter Hook playing Dead Souls or Atmosphere or anything else from the band still feels like an exciting opportunity.

Over the course of both sets Hook and the band built on the songs, expanding them and finding new grooves and new elements that not only added to the music but also offered chances for the band to shine and highlight their own skills and talents. It was a pretty incredible evening, equal parts celebration of the songs and a rediscovery and exploration of music that I've loved for decades. The Perfect Kiss sounded amazing with extended solos for the band to play, Blue Monday felt even more monumental than I know it to be, and Transmission was a rolling wall of sound ready to crush anything in its path. And while some people would argue against changing the songs live I would counter that argument saying that change breathes a new life into the work, giving the audience something new to enjoy. Add the solos, extend the breaks, add another verse if you think it fits, that's the kind of recreation and revision that makes live music so special.

I'll admit that as I write this entry I'm finding it hard to think of the words to fully capture how I feel about this show and about this music. All I can really think to say is that to be in a room with others hearing these songs, surrounded by people who feel the same way I do, that's something magical, almost sacred. So much of my life is tied up with the music of New Order and Joy Division, and to hear it live is a celebration of so many things, not just the music but of everything they've become associated with for me. 

And I think in many ways that Peter Hook recognizes that about his audience, I think he's fully aware of the fact that these are more than just songs for people, and in realizing that he approaches performing them with the respect and appreciation that the songs deserve and he plays them knowing that they're an important part of people's lives. And that should be easy for him to do because it's perfectly clear that every one of these songs is an important part of his life as well. I mean, he literally lived all of them, right? 

Of course he gets it.

Over the course of the pandemic Peter Hook and the Light have had to cancel shows and reschedule gigs just like every other artist has, but during this hiatus Hook and the band have done a great job of maintaining contact with their fans, playing a handful of socially distanced online sets and holding weekly AMA sessions on Instagram. It's not the same as playing a gig, but it's something, it keeps people connected with the songs and the music in a way that reminds us that they exist and they continue to be an important part of our lives. And along with that is the knowledge that we'll get back to a space where we can hear those songs in a live setting again and celebrate that music together. Peter Hook has made it clear that he can't wait to get out and play live again and I'm sure that there is a legion of fans, myself included, who are ready to go to a show just as soon as he's out there...

No comments:

Post a Comment