Peter Hook and the Light at the Music Box, L.A. 9/14/11 and the El Rey Theatre, L.A. 9/16/11 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Peter Hook and the Light

Peter Hook and the Light at the Music Box, L.A. 9/14/11 and the El Rey Theatre, L.A. 9/16/11,

Oct 06, 2011 Web Exclusive
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It's pretty obvious that Peter Hook of Joy Division (and New Order) is cashing in on the immortality of his former group by performing songs from their only two albums, Closer and Unknown Pleasures. In witnessing the emotional multi-aged crowds at either of the nights he performed in Los Angeles—a select number of which are following him on tour—it's clear that few of the fans there cared if avarice was part of the motivation.

Night one in Los Angeles at the Music Box was dedicated to Closer. The balcony was closed and there was plenty of breathing room on the floor. The set was preceded by some footage of Joy Division. Then Hooky and his expert collection of musicians, the Light, took to the stage against a backdrop of Closer's cover. Grey mohawk-ed and donned in a Union Jack Joy Division T-shirt, Hooky was playing guitar, which was surprising considering he is defined by his bass.

Hook is not the most comfortable behind the microphone, or as a frontman, for that matter, but he gamely plowed through the distortion of the overly loud PA, which was making the vocals difficult to hear. The 30+ year-old songs hold up tremendously. One can't help wondering how huge Joy Division would be if they were still around. There was, however, a certain franticness missing from the show, which wasn't helped by Hook looking like he wasn't buying into his own performance. Things took a different turn with the appearance of Perry Farrell on stage. Spindly, in a form-fitting outfit, and with his signature stiff dance moves, Farrell tore into "Isolation." Farrell made the song his own, escalating the phoned-in tone of the evening to where it should have been from the start.

Following Farrell's performance, Hook went back to the mic, and to his guitar, which he holds and plays like it's a bass: ham-fisted and unnatural. The energy started to dissipate. It was elevated again when Moby arrived on stage, bespectacled and in a white T-shirt with the word "VOID" emblazoned across the front. Moby's devotion to Joy Division is no secret, with most of his shows featuring a cover from the band. He confidently-with the slightest touch of caution—launched into "Colony." This was clearly an opportunity of a lifetime for Moby. His renditions with an actual member of Joy Division are far superior to the ones he does himself.

Despite becoming more rugged-sounding, once Moby returned to the crowd, pogo-ing at the front of the stage, the momentum started to get lost once more. It didn't really pick up until the encore when Moby was dragged up to sing "Transmission"—the angriest version ever heard, which tore the house down. Hook commented that the show was like The X Factor, "but with fockin' talent," and said that they should go out with a bang. With that, the timeless first notes of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" began. A second encore, which included "Atmosphere," led to Ian Curtis-like jerking, epileptic pogos from the dedicated audience. Neither song is on Closer or Unknown Pleasures, but no one's complaining about them being included. Hook boldly stripped off his iconic, sweat-soaked T-shirt and threw it to the crowd. If you are a Joy Division devotee, you saw none of the flaws, and this was a night to be remembered.

Night two was the real night to be remembered, a couple of days later at the El Rey Theatre where Hook and the Light performed Unknown Pleasures. Rammed to the rafters, with no space to turn, the symbolic pulses of the album cover art roused an enthusiasm that was simply missing from the previous show. This, plus infinitely better and more clear sound, brought out a much more passionate performance from the group, and Hook in particular. Additionally, Unknown Pleasures is overall a more urgent-sounding album than Closer, which translates to its live renditions. No Perry Farrell this evening, but Moby was there again, and on stage for "Incite" and "New Dawn Fades." Hook was markedly more confident on the mic. The definite highlight was him blazing through "She's Lost Control," working the audience into a proper frenzy.

The double encore included "Dead Souls," whose insistent refrain lathered up the frothed up crowd even more. Keeping up this mood, Hook shouted his way through "Warsaw" (neither song on either album), driving the audience to the brink of insanity. Moby returned for "Transmission" again, and it was just as good as the night before, although maybe not as angry-sounding. And of course, anything Joy Division-related has to include "Love Will Tear Us Apart," with which they closed. It was a considerably more satisfying experience at the El Rey by a long shot. You almost believed Hook was doing it for the fans and because he really enjoyed it, rather than just for the cash.




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