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Saturday, December 04, 2010
I have never seen so many Joy Division fans in one place as they poured into and packed New York’s Webster Hall. With so many black-and-white Unknown Pleasures T-shirts in one room, I could well have been in attendance at an astronomy convention. The show began with a half-hour documentary about Factory Record artists, though it took a few false starts to finally get the film to play. It covered the Factory Records label, The Hacienda, New Order, and Joy Division, with even a short mention of Durutti Column.
NME’s New York correspondent came out onstage and told a brief story about how Joy Division never made it to New York for their US tour, then spoke of the legendary New Order show that finally did arrive in the Big Apple, and then announced the band.
Peter Hook and his band The Light took the stage and performed some early material from Warsaw, then ripped into Joy Division’s debut album, Unknown Pleasures. Hook seemed a bit tense at first, with some sound issues, as he and the band tore into the tunes. The music had all the post-punk grit you could have ever expected, and Hook’s voice often sounded very Ian Curtis-like on the more low verse lines of the songs. As he tried to do the higher, more shouting parts, he often just sounded . . . well, like Peter Hook shouting. The band ended with “I Remember Nothing.” The set seemed to breeze by, but a few highlights were “New Dawn Fades” and “She’s Lost Control.”
Hook’s backing band did a decent job with the songs. His son took over the bass lines for Dad on the lyrical portions of the tunes. The drummer did a nice job and gave me a deeper appreciation for Stephen Morris’s amazing drum work. The guitarist did well with Bernard Sumner’s guitar lines, but every once in a while he got a bit carried away and ad-libbed some modern metal-esque noodling, which was a bit unpleasant for a brief second or two. Overall, though, for what it was, it was fun to seeing these songs played live.
When the band returned for the encore, the crowd and band both let their guard down and really got into the songs. They encored with one of the most beautiful Joy Division tunes, “Atmosphere,” which Hook dedicated to Ian Curtis. It was a real treat to hear it live, and I was very surprised they played it. Next up they performed an amazing version of “Transmission,” where the lyrics auto-suggest you should “dance, dance, dance.” This song really brought the crowd into a frenzy and had the entire audience jumping up and down. Peter seemed very touched by the new energy, as his hardened features then wore a boyish smile. He dedicated the last song to his promoter, and his father, who was sitting up in the balcony. Hook and the band tore into “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and the crowd lost control and were dancing—and even moshing . . . It was quite an odd sight.
Words and pics by Kevin Serra