For the first time in over 30 years, Joy Division's debut masterpiece was brought to life in America. Former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook and his band The Light, have brought the album over for a live concert experience to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Unknown Pleasures. In a tour that started a year ago in the birthplace of the album, Manchester, England and has gone all around the world has finally made it's way across the pond.
Joy Division formed in 1976 in Manchester and through their mysterious sound and interesting take on punk (a sound so interesting it is called post-punk), the band quickly became the talk of England and then soon Europe. Having released only two records, 1979's Unknown Pleasures and 1980's Closer, the band looked like they were bound to take over the world on the eve of their first North American tour. But then singer Ian Curtis took his own life and the band dismantled soon after. The surviving members of Joy Division formed New Order and took the 1980s by storm in the wake of Curtis' passing.
While New Order has had the opportunity to play around the world and would throw in Joy Division songs in each set, Joy Division themselves where never able to properly tour the fruits of their labor. Now with Peter Hook doing the anniversary gigs, it is the first time most fans around the world and a whole new generation can experience a part of Joy Division in concert.
The night at Webster Hall started off rather rocky. With no opening act, Hooky had a DVD of the history of Joy Division and the late 70s Manchester music scene play, yet with massive technical difficulties in trying to get the unnecessary and rather boring documentary to work, Peter Hook and the Light took the stage. Hooky takes the singing duties of the late Ian Curtis and does a rather good job mimicking the late singers baritone voice.
Opening with the non-Unknown Pleasures track "No Love Lost," the band sounded a bit sloppy and the sound in the venue was off, you could see Hooky get frustrated with the sound technicians over what was coming through the monitors and speakers. After a rocky three song start, Unknown Pleasures finally came into full effect as soon as they started playing the records lead track, "Disorder." Sounding just absolutely perfect at this point it was a trip through nostalgia for all, young and old.
While The Light does their best to recreate the Joy Division songs, Hooky just stood on stage clutching his bass most of the night and not doing much. Though we know Ian's legacy of dancing around like a maniac on stage, Hook would just stand like a statue with a puss on his face in between singing duties. While the most impressive person on stage was Hooky's son, Jack Bates on bass, it was Unknown Pleasures we were hearing but clearly not Joy Division we were seeing. After an hour on stage and a brief encore that included the closing number and Joy Division's biggest single "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the night was done.
Seeing acts such as this are indeed an experience to fans. But much like what the surviving members of The Doors and Yardbirds do, it is really just seeing the world's greatest cover band with some original creators of the music.