Concert Review: Peter Hook and the Light, September 24, Phoenix Concert Theatre

I have to write a few disclaimers before I dive into this review, as I feel it may arouse some impassioned opinions. First, as conflicted as I feel about some band members embarking on tours without others, it’s within all of the songwriters’ rights to tour such material without other members (particularly when one of its key members is dead). Second, it’s not up to me to decide whether a tour should or shouldn’t happen. I can only report on what my thoughts were.

Let me preface this with Panic Manual’s love of Joy Division, albeit in varying degrees, through various phases of our lives. I would say for me, finding this band had more to do with timing in impressionable adolescence. The music was poetic, dark, and rebellious, but on top of everything else there was a dreary upbringing, unhappy marriage, and of course the dramatic finish of a suicide. One needs grand things to explore in youth…be it Star Wars or Joy Division, and this is probably the closest I ever got towards music fanaticism, having collected every album, boxed set, poster, book, vinyl, and t-shirt that I could afford.

That said, I haven’t actively listened to them since I was in 12th Grade. Art is funny that way–the stuff you discover in high school sticks with you forever in spite of abandonment. Your formative years can make a book, album, or film feel like your life is hinging on its consumption. I would imagine that I’m no exception here–being a teenager is all about brooding poetry, after all.

So…onto my thoughts about the show. This past year, Peter Hook has been touring the posthumously-released Closer (my favorite of the two official albums), and he continues on the success of those shows by performing Unknown Pleasures with The Light, which includes his son on bass. The backing band certainly sounded louder and more stadium-rocky than anything I had remembered…that in itself is fine, seeing as a tour should be supporting a new and different ambition towards past material to make it a worthwhile endeavor. I just felt like Hook was scream-singing most of the lyrics, struggling to keep up with the breakneck punk tempo of the songs (however at age 55, we should all be so lucky to be pulling off rock shows passably at any level).

And what was up with those aggressive ceiling and audience points?

On the one hand, I had to admire Mr. Hook’s enthusiasm for rocking out with his cock out. On the other, I couldn’t help but wonder if a different approach to the material might have given us more to enjoy and think about. I’m hard-pressed to suggest what that approach might be (acoustic??), but it just seemed as if the album was turning into a parody of a prototypical ‘punk’ sound when so much of what made Joy Division appealing in the first place was its hollow percussional scarcity.

Some of the songs went off better than others. Shadowplay, Transmission, and Dead Souls, which made me wonder whether I might have felt differently about an instrumental version of the tour because it would have stayed true to Mr. Hook’s true talents. To me, the poetic lyrics are really the foundation of the group’s appeal–something I really felt was missing from New Order. New Order of course had other strengths in electronic music.

I would suspect that given Peter Hook’s interviews about how he thinks anyone who disapproves of these shows should fuck off, he won’t care much about what I have to say. Perhaps you don’t either, but at the end of the day I expected something better from the man who created one of the best singles of 1997.

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Posted on by Allison in Concerts

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