Peter Hook and The Light | L.A. | Review | Pics

Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Peter Hook and The Light :: 09.14.11 :: The Music Box :: Los Angeles, CA

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Peter Hook and The Light by L. Paul Mann
Peter Hook and The Light performed a very special concert at The Music Box on Hollywood Boulevard. Hook, the former bass player of the pivotal New Wave band Joy Division as well as New Order, brought his new band to Los Angeles for a pair of unique shows. The first performance, centered around Joy Division’s seminal 1980 second album Closer, which they played in its entirety. The Music Box provided the perfect atmosphere for the resurrection of the Joy Division sound, which many music historians regard as the precursor to Goth music, amongst other streams in modern rock.

Originally built in 1926, the baroque old theater was a state of the art movie house during the advent of talking motion pictures. The theater is slowly being restored to its original gilded splendor but still has the patina of aged abandonment, creating a classic dark atmosphere for brooding musical artists with a penchant for angst ridden lyrics. Fans arrived early for the show, which was announced with little fanfare or commercial advertising. The bars quickly filled in the dimly lit theater while a DJ perched in an gilded ornate nook far above the crowd, played an appropriately downbeat set of old and new somber electronic beats.

Moby w/ Peter Hook and The Light by L. Paul Mann
The show began with a thirty minute documentary of the early days of Joy Division, featuring a series of patched together early attempts at music videos and interviews covering the band’s four year history (1976-80). Joy Division, which took their name from a 1955 novella, “The House of Dolls,” referring to slave prostitutes in Nazi concentration camps, began their musical career emulating punk bands like the Sex Pistols. But under the influence of producer Martin Hannet, the band’s first album, Unknown Pleasures, took on a new, haunting sound that was the precursor to many of the most successful acts of the1980's like The Cure and Depeche Mode. They also predated Bauhaus, the band most associated with the forefront of Goth music. Joy Division’s uniquely brooding sound has been considered by many music critics as the missing link between the 70s Punk movement and the 80's New Wave and Goth period. Joy Division was fronted by charismatic, melancholy vocalist Ian Curtis. The lead singer suffered from the dual demons of depression and epilepsy. Epileptic attacks often triggered during the band’s live performances, left Curtis embarrassed and thrust him further into depression. The troubled singer committed suicide shortly before the release of Closer in 1980. Ironically, the album spawned the band's biggest hit, “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and Curtis’ suicide led to massive media coverage. The troubled poet was compared to Jim Morrison in substance and their shared tragic end. The other band members, with Hook on bass, Bernard Summer on guitar and keyboards and Stephen Morris on drums, went on the form the more commercially successful New Order, in the 1980s. In an acrimonious split, New Order is planning a new tour without Hook, a fact that the feisty bass player made veiled references to during this performance.

El Ten Eleven by L. Paul Mann
After the film, opening act El Ten Eleven took the stage for a short explosive thirty minute set. The Los Angeles group, comprised of drummer Tim Fogarty and bassist/guitarist Kristian Dunn, set themselves apart from other power rock duos that have been so popular of late by playing an almost jazz-like frenzied rock. The seasoned performers, who have been together since 2003, create a hybrid sound harkening back to progressive jazz rock bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever, but with a 21st century twist reminiscent of bands like Radiohead. Dunn, alternating on a 12-string guitar and a fretless bass, played frenzied jams modified by an array of electronic enhancements triggered by a sea of foot pedals. Fogarty complemented him with a relentless drumbeat. Listening to the intense wall of sound, it was sometimes hard to believe that it was being created solely by a duo of masterful musicians. In keeping with the theme of the night, the band did a cover of Joy Division’s “Disorder,” which they just released as an MP3.

Perry Farrell by L. Paul Mann
Just after 10.30 pm, The Light took the stage and Peter Hook launched into a bass drenched version of Closer’s opener “Incubation”. Hook's son Jack Bates also plays bass in the band, creating thunderous overtones well suited to the somber sound and allowing Hook to pause occasionally to concentrate on his lead vocal duties. The band's guitar player, Nat Wason, also gave a youthful vibration to the band with his spirited and diversified attack on his well worn guitar. Mercurial singer Perry Farrell made a surprise appearance to sing “Isolation”. Farrell, looking dapper and out of place in his dressy clothes, is a longtime Joy Division fan and asked Hook to play bass on his Satellite Party side project. Farrell's whirling dervish lead singing style blended nicely with the band, conjuring memories of Ian Curtis' famous “Dead Fly Dance,” where he’d wave his hands incessantly in a trance-like state.

During the next song, Hook offered one of his veiled jabs at his former band mates after an intense, bass-driven version of “Passover.” He praised his son's bass playing and quippedm “Keep that up and you will get yourself a job with New Order”. Another Joy Division fan, music maven Moby, then climbed out of the audience and on to the stage, much to the astonishment of the crowd around him, to take over vocals for the next two songs, “Colony” and “A Means To An End”. Moby also performed in an appropriately spirited and trance-like fashion before disappearing back into the crowd. Hook finished the rest of the songs on Closer with strong vocals in his more baritone style, which lent itself well to the band’s fresh interpretation of the timeless material.

After the conclusion of the album, the band returned for a multi-song encore of other Joy Division numbers. Moby returned to the stage for a gyrating, punk-infused rendition of “Transmission”. Hook took the lead on Joy Division’s most enduring and haunting song “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

The band was set to perform a sister show at the nearby El Rey Theatre on September 16th featuring Joy Division’s first album Unknown Pleasures. There seems to be a growing trend in the live music world to present classic albums in their entirety in shows like this one. For true fans of the music, the artistic merits of hearing a piece played as it was written in lieu of strung together commercial hits provides a far more interesting and uniquely rewarding live music experience.

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[Published on: 9/19/11]

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