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- Posted on Dec 4th 2010 2:30PM by Kenneth Partridge
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Three decades later and 50 blocks south, Hook finally gave Manhattan an evening of Joy Division music, performing Friday night with a new backing band, the Light, at Webster Hall. As he's done since May in cities around the world, Hook played through the entirety of 'Unknown Pleasures,' Joy Division's 1979 debut, sharing bass duties with his 20-year-old son, Jack, and taking Curtis' place as frontman.
"Some things are too good to leave in the past," a writer for the British rock magazine 'NME' said at the top of the set, as if to justify what Hook and company were about to do.
That preface was unnecessary, as Friday's show was far from a Joy Division reenactment. The six-piece ensemble sounded bigger and fuller than the original quartet, and even Hook's hairstyle -- an ill-advised, if gutsy, blonde faux-hawk -- flew in the face of strict historical accuracy.
The tone, too, was altogether different. If Curtis came off like a troubled 23-year-old -- a young man wrestling with fame, epilepsy and various personal problems -- Hook came dressed for battle, brimming with confidence. He seemed keenly aware of Joy Division's legacy and the place 'Unknown Pleasures' has come to occupy in the rock canon.
Rather than delve right in, Hook started the evening with songs from Joy Division's first two EPs, barely touching his bass as he sang 'No Love Lost,' 'Leaders of Men,' 'Glass' and 'Digital.' His baritone was a reasonable approximation of Curtis', and he thankfully made no attempt to recreate the late singer's fidgety mannerisms or march-in-place dancing.
According to legend, Sumner was tapped to sing lead in New Order because neither Hook nor Morris could handle vocals while playing their instruments. That might explain why Hook let his son take the riff that opens 'Disorder,' the leadoff track on 'Unknown Pleasures.' It wasn't until 'Insight,' three songs later, that Hook doubled Jack's notes, helping the Light bore a hole through the middle of the song. The group either drowned out or skipped over the Space Invaders synth blips heard on the studio version.
Those types of deviations were rare, and down the stretch, the Light mostly stuck to the 1979 arrangements. Hook gave Jack the best bass part of the night, the one tthat sets the melodic template for 'She's Lost Control,' but he kept for himself the dull throb that begins 'Shadowplay,' another standout. On closer 'I Remember Nothing,' Hook recreated with eerie precision the despondent way Curtis sang, "We were strangers for far too long."
Having made it through 'Unknown Pleasures,' Hook used the encore to showcase several of Joy Division's best-known singles. Fans swayed through 'Atmosphere' and moved more vigorously during 'Transmission,' taking to heart the chorus' call to "dance, dance, dance, dance, dance."
"There's only one way to end an evening like this," Hook said, introducing the logical finale, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart.' The song famously cracked the U.K. Top 20 after Curtis' death, and 30 years later, it remains a dichotomous, confounding, thrilling piece of pop music. It's a sad song with a catchy hook -- a testament to the beauty of what was and a hint of what might have been.