We Went There: Peter Hook and the Nagging Sadness of Hanging On, Live from First Avenue
[Ed note: Continuing a troubling trend, Peter Hook demanded a contract by the photographer that would have signed over all rights for the photographer’s work and made it completely at the disposal of the artist. We did not sign this, meaning that unfortunately we don’t have photos from the show]
About 20 minutes into Peter Hook’s opening set, playing the New Order edition of Substance, a single piece of confetti floated down from the ceiling of First Avenue. Presumably from a previous show, the singular strip of paper was a perfect analogy for what was unfolding on stage. It represented something that should be joyous and full of good spirit, but in the flesh it ended up feeling sad and empty.
Hook, who played bass in New Order and Joy Division, has controversially taken a group of hired guns on the road to play the music of the bands he helped found three decades ago. The problem, in addition to any ethical issues brought forward by this arrangement? Hook was the bass player, not the singer, for both bands. Despite this fact, he was attempting to take center stage as the singer, and it really wore down the spirit of the New Order songs that the band played. Even stranger? There was a second bass player who played many of the bass parts and the guitar player ended up singing quite often (and Hook seemed to not remember all of the lyrics as he kept glancing down at a music stand). There were stretches were Hook neither played nor sang, instead just wandering around the stage.
Many of the songs were stone cold classics that stand on their own two feet, especially during the “Ceremony,” “Everything Gone’s Green,” “Temptation” stretch, but Hook’s preening while dragging down these classic songs was hard to ignore. He kept clearing out his bandmates so he could walk to the front of the stage and strike a pose with his bass, soaking in the glory that he had a part, many years ago, in birthing into this world. He actively ruined “Shellshocked” and “1963,” songs that require a singing voice to drive home their point, and weighed down classics like “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle.” The crowd seemed to still be excited by the classic music coming from the stage, but I have a hard time believing that even the guys crushing beers in front of us could ignore the bad karaoke vibe unfolding on stage.
The first set was the New Order edition of Substance, and the second set was the Joy Division version of the same titled LP. While the flesh was strong (it was only about 10pm when the first set ended and I had taken an afternoon nap!), the spirit was weak. Not sure I would be able to hear Ian Curtis’s work run over by a bus, I headed for the exit. As I left, I thought about how timeless New Order and Joy Division’s best work is, and like that single piece of confetti, how the time to fully experience the joy associated with it had sadly passed us by.