Review: Peter Hook & the Light at the Bluebird Theater, 9/19/11
PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT at the BLUEBIRD THEATER | 9/19/11
Tom Murphy Peter Hook and The Light
It was to be expected that Peter Hook & the Light would be playing Unknown Pleasures in its entirety, and that it wouldn't be a half-hearted and insincere attempt at re-creating that music live. What was not expected was the intensity with which the band played. Also surprising were the moments of departure from the original, such as the rendition of "I Remember Nothing," the track that closed the original album on a note of unremitting personal darkness. Hook's vocals evoked the haunting desolation of the original while the band created an alternate sense of brooding atmospheres that used echoing guitar noises, sharp punctuations of sound and short leaks of white noise from the synth to stand in for the clatter of objects in the background. It's the kind of song that shouldn't work live on a collection of songs filled with seething internalized anger. But this lineup managed to make that most uncharacteristic of Unknown Pleasures tracks work.
Tom Murphy Overcasters
Overcasters were clearly from the same lineage as Joy Division, especially through the post-punk bands with more creative guitar ideas in the early to late '80s, but with more psychedelic edges. While not short on brooding atmospheres, such as in "The Kiss of Sister Ray," Overcasters once again exorcised melancholy feelings by making its songs burn through the dead weight of a heavy heart rather than dwell on getting stuck in low points. Guitarist John Nichols often had a look of concerned bewilderment, as though he'd just realized his power as a musician for the first time. The set ended with a newer number where the dynamics are centered around the release of tension after a dense and insistent percussion build.
Peter Hook & the Light came on stage after an introduction in the form of "Trans-Europe Express," by Kraftwerk. With little in the way of further introduction, the band went straight into the driving "No Love Lost," and from the beginning, those guys erased any ideas that this show might not be up to snuff. "Leaders of Men," "Glass" and "Digital" followed in quick succession, and Hook, while not possessing a voice with the same character as Ian Curtis, pulled off the nuances of the vocals that did justice to the spirit of the original songs.
Hook and the band played Unknown Pleasures straight through -- starting, of course, with "Disorder," and for a second it seemed so odd, like actually getting to see a latter-day incarnation of Joy Division. This was partly because guitarist Nat Wason really did have his parts down, and he played with a precision and intensity that was at times unnerving -- because even when he did depart from the original songs in any way, he seemed to do so with a perfect understanding of the essence of the song and interpreted what needed to be done, like he was somehow channeling a young Bernard Sumner. The absolute master of his instrument was consistently awe-inspiring, because he absolutely, truly seemed to be infused with the spirit of what Joy Division was all about.
Tom Murphy Peter Hook and The Light
Hook gestured with his right hand throughout the show and sometimes shouted into the mike when especially swept up in the momentum of the performance. "Candidate" was chilling and Wason's guitar tones and gyrations were strikingly perfect in helping to create a sense of impending doom. Most of the bass was provided by Hook's son, but Hook certainly got in on playing the more unconventional bass lines. "Insight" was particularly powerful, and rather than the usual middle section of nearly chaotic noise, everyone played a dissonant line of notes with such fervency that it bordered on the unsettling, much as the original was to listen to.