I have to admit that when Peter Hook decided to tour a few years ago with a new band playing Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures in its entirety, the idea did not sit well with me. It seemed an easy money grab, especially now that every hipster and his granny have a t-shirt bearing that record’s iconic cover in their wardrobe. But after attending one of Hook’s promotional appearances for his account of the Joy Division years, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, I realized that the seminal band’s legacy didn’t only belong to ill-fated singer Ian Curtis, but to Hook as well and he could damn well do what he pleased with it. With my opinion changed, the opportunity to hear him do Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies held an allure I couldn’t pass up.
Still, having seen a Hook-less New Order play a mediocre set to a throng of said hip young things in Williamsburg earlier over the summer, it was with a mixture of hope and apprehension that I entered Webster Hall. (The venue was a particularly fitting place for Hook to be recreating New Order’s first two albums as New Order played there when it was called The Ritz, just two months after their debut was released.) Any misgivings quickly vanished, though, as Hook was already onstage with the Slaves of Venus (a moniker Hook and his former bandmates briefly considered before deciding upon Joy Division), playing a Joy Division set that ended with “In a Lonely Place,” the B-side to New Order’s first single that was written before Curtis committed suicide and a perfect transition to the “headlining” set.
Fittingly, Hook began his New Order set with “Ceremony,” the single that preceded Movement and which vividly exemplifies the difference between the band and its former incarnation. The song’s sparse yet sparkling opening notes are bright in comparison to Joy Division’s icy demeanor, and in this context they fittingly set the tone for the evening. Hook, who would play both four- and six-string basses throughout the night, has a voice more akin to Curtis’ than New Order frontman Bernard Sumner’s, so one could also hear something of the song’s original incarnation. Of course, when recording Movement, the band hadn’t decided upon a lead singer, and Hook sings lead on two of that record’s tracks. The first of those, leadoff track, “Dreams Never End” followed “Procession,” and as such, it resonated with a certain amount of familiarity, while more ubiquitous songs like “Temptation,” which came later in the night, couldn’t help but sound a little alien. Elsewhere, though, cuts like “Truth” and “Chosen Time” that are somewhat anemic in their recorded versions became bolder in Hooks’ hands, and “Denial” was positively riveting.
After a transitional cut, “Cries and Whispers,” the B-side to the “Everything’s Gone Green” single that was released a couple months after Movement, Hook and his cohorts, which include son Jack on second bass, tackled Power, Corruption & Lies. Of course, it is on this album that Hook’s melodic bass playing came to forefront, and it was a treat to hear him recreate those distinctive lines. Similarly, though, it was on this album that Sumner found his voice, so Hook’s baritone was in sharp contrast to what we’ve been listening to for decades. But as witnessed this summer, neither does Sumner have the voice he once did, so what does it matter? “We All Stand” worked better than “Age of Consent,” but “Your Silent Face” stood out as the highlight, Hook accenting the song with melodica. Musically, the band recreated each note damn near perfectly, and by the time they got to “Leave Me Alone,” I was ready for them to continue on to Low-Life.
Fortunately, there was an encore, which began with “Everything’s Gone Green,” which may have been my favorite song of the night, it’s disjointed rhythms bouncing off Webster Hall’s walls. Of course, this set couldn’t have been complete without “Temptation” and “Blue Monday,” and those followed. Hook closed the night with “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” just as his onetime mates did in July, but he did the song more justice, retaining much of its original bittersweet vibe, and again proving that the Joy Division/New Order legacy is as much his as anyone’s.