Peter Hook & the Light – Las Vegas
This Friday, the Electric Daisy Carnival will descend upon Las Vegas like a thunderstorm of candy rain.
It will also mark the anniversary of Ian Curtis’ untimely death which brought one promising band to a tragic end and inspired a new one to rise from its ashes. Chances are that few of the partygoers will find any significance in that but without New Order’s club dominant run in the 1980s, it is hard to envision electronic dance music ever reaching the level of influence that it currently has over popular culture. On Monday night, Peter Hook & the Light dazzled Las Vegas with a set of New Order’s most immaculate singles followed by an emotional journey through the music of Joy Division.
Choosing to start at the end, Hook and the band spent the first hour of the night delivering a faithful performance of New Order’s best known songs from “Ceremony” to “Bizarre Love Triangle”. Having seen New Order several times in recent years, I was immediately struck by the visceral power of the Lights’ live sound which put an emphasis on the instruments rather than electronics. Touring bassist Fred Sablan proved a revelation with a sound and style that paid homage to the legend standing a few feet to his left all night. Hook’s vocals were often low in the mix but he sings incredibly well, using a weathered tone that further breathes humanity into the throbbing drum machines and synth sounds.
As perfect as any dance music ever recorded, New Order’s calculated delivery of songs such as “Blue Monday” remain genre defining but intentionally devoid of soul. The original 12” single, the best selling 12” of all-time, was presented in an unmarked sleeve designed to look like a floppy disk. This was computer music played by a post-punk band which managed to retain its edge, at least for as long as Peter Hook played with them. Whenever he stepped away from the mic, Hook displayed that edge with his aggressive bass lines coming in louder than Sablan’s and creating a massive low-end which lashed out at the audience. Had the night ended with “True Faith”, I would eagerly be typing about how Peter Hook had outdid his old mates in the current configuration of New Order. However, Hook’s undeniably great New Order set ultimately fell far short of what lie ahead.
The funereal march of “The Eternal” and the gothic tremble of “New Dawn Fades” shifted the mood of the night in an instant as the ghost of Ian Curtis burned brightly in the empty spaces between each note. Pillars of the post-punk movement, Joy Division were also a cacophony of energy and noise in their formidable years and that is where Peter Hook does his most damage these days. “Warsaw” and “Leaders of Men” were jagged and raw, closer to Gang of Four than the later Joy Division music that each new generation of musicians reaches for as an influence. On “She’s Lost Control”, I reach the conclusion that Peter Hook deserves the guitar god label despite playing a bass guitar and working in a genre that demonizes solos and technical flash. Without Hook, Ian Curtis’ poetry would have come unglued from the music and we would have never been given the gift that was Joy Division.
Whereas New Order tacks a few Joy Division songs onto their encores, seemingly out of obligation, Hook appears far more in touch with his lost bandmate’s legacy. Turning to a painting of Curtis placed on stage as a gift, Hook dedicates “Atmosphere” to his friend and pours his emotions into the lyrics. The final song provides a blood rush to the heart as the band lets loose with a wild “Love Will Tear Us Apart” that wisely veers away from the sacred studio version and focuses on celebrating how much Joy Division means to both us and Peter Hook.