Saturday night's Peter Hook Presents Unknown Pleasures show at Royale was no Joy Division gig. But few in the audience seemed to care, and a mere fraction seemed age appropriate to even have had a chance to see the real deal back in the UK more than 30 years ago. But backed by his new band the Light, Hooky on vocals and bass barreled through the entire Unknown Pleasures album and a handful of choice Joy Division cuts -- opening with "No Love Lost," ending with "Ceremony" and creating a sonic high with "Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It was also clear, early on, that it was only Peter Hook who could pull this shit off. Yeah, there's no Ian Curtis, we’ll never get to have him on stage, but honestly, Bernard Sumner couldn't put together this kind of tour, and certainly Stephen Morris wouldn't be able to sell it on his own.
And yet there was Peter Hook, immersed in the legacy of Joy Division that has been rather limited to relative cult appeal after three decades (save the odd ill-advised sneaker design or Hollywood starlet rocking the pulsar t-shirt). Joy Division are immensely influential, no question, but it doesn’t feel like a cabinet that’s been completely raided by pop culture, even in the years after Grant Gee's phenomenal 2006 documentary Joy Division, Anton Corbijn's mixed-bag bio-pic Control a year later, and the occasional overdone cover from the likes of the Killers.
As I mentioned to Hooky in my Q&A posted last week, this was as close as I'd ever get to seeing Joy Division (no need for Halloween cover sets) and I walked away satisfied. And with no New Order reunion on the immediate horizon, hardcore fans of both bands seem eager to accept this latest tour as part of the overall plot. 1980 was a long time ago.
So I didn't enter Royale expecting to see Joy Division 2.0, and I think lowering those expectations and simply anticipating hearing some of the greatest songs ever written, both within post-punk's slim parameters and across a broader, all-encompassing rock music's spectrum, allowed others and I to appreciate the show for that it was. Peter Hook is still a showman, a legend, and though it appears (via video evidence) that other stateside gigs in the early stages of this nine-city tour featured livelier, more interactive performances, the fact is you just can't fuck with the Joy Division catalogue and it was an absolute treat hearing these songs in a live setting with a true, unmistakable link to the band’s past. These tracks are as fresh and dark and menacing as they were when they were first released.
With a drunken hand, I phlipcam’d "Disorder," posted below, and the two other Peter Hook videos, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "She's Lost Control," come courtesy of Mick Murray of In Your Face photo.