September 28th, 2016 | Live reviews

Peter Hook and The Light – September 24, 2016 – The Wiltern

Nostalgia carries with it certain kind of ache.

It hangs like a weight across the shoulders. It’s heavier for the regretful. It is an infirmity of sorts. Music has become a soundtrack by which that ache gets mitigated. Naturally, at some point, how music affects you—and how it afflicts you—are parallel dimensions that sometimes coincide. The advantage of time is that it enables you to make up your mind as to how instructive you want that pain to be, as you travel through the aether.

Which brings us to Peter Hook.

On his voyage across the world to play practically every song from the Joy Division and New Order back catalogue—unearthing a myriad of obscurities in the process—he’s up to the tour during which he plays New Order and Joy Division songs from their respective Substance compilations.

Nostalgia that involves absent friends represents a unique type of pain. It’s like facing one mirror against another and watching the infinities unfold. Whenever Hook goes out on these tours and plays these songs, the intensity of criticism—criticism that’s seen him screamed at and scrutinized with a fury bordering on the censorious—seems endless as well. It’s as though Ian Curtis had gone to the grave in a song-lined coffin. The great irony, of course, is that while he is no longer alive, Curtis’ songs remain very much alive.

Ripping away a bandage may seem immediately distasteful but air helps heal the wound.

Hook and The Light enter to Mario Nascimbene’s “Ragnar’s Return” theme from the soundtrack of 50s epic The Vikings before launching into “Cries and Whispers” by New Order. “Once out of reach, we never speak, we never compromise,” goes the faintly topical lyric, and one of the favorite obsessions of an introvert is interpreting music like tarot cards to project the story of individual experience. Life—as it’s happening right now. One of nostalgia’s more invigorating aches comes from a song’s ability to mix memory and longing to ignite that hot flash that runs across the skin and explodes in prickly fireworks that, depending on the context, could be love; may be fear.

Moby comes in and sings “Ceremony.” It’s tradition. “Everything’s Gone Green” and “Blue Monday” put everyone in a sweaty whirling trance; the level of depth that New Order brought to the dancefloor is inspired and rarely discussed. As Hook delves deeper into Sumner’s increasingly schmaltzy lyrics—say, on “Thieves Like Us”—it’s clearer how New Order grew, and in what direction. As New Order changed, so did its voice, essentially—both literally and metaphorically, although it’s heartening to see that Hook keeps the frogs in during “The Perfect Kiss.” At least two people get carried away at various points. Physically. Always a good sign. The band powers through “True Faith” and “1963” until an interminable intermission leading to the moment meant for Joy Division songs.

The curtain rises, cutting through the deafening cheers swimming in its wake. If songs like “No Love Lost” and “Shadowplay” are dark, they’re the kind of darkness revealed by lightning when it splits the night. If they’re emotional, then these are the kinds of outbursts that wash clear your eyes to the grant the gift of second sight. At the very least and on songs like “From Safety to Where?”, these performances make you realize that the it must have been absolute fucking dynamite to write these songs, to make them real. The shattering, shuddering grace of “These Days” flows effortlessly through to the churning punk energy of “Warsaw” and “Leaders of Men”—songs that win the biggest cheers and pit-stirring of the evening. “Autosuggestion,” with its exhortation to “Lose some sleep and say you tried,” is one of the most potent rallying cries in all of popular song, its guitar echoing in the background like the motor of an idling car ready to take you somewhere incredibly important and illuminating. Moby comes back for “Transmission” and “She’s Lost Control,” just before the band plays the underrated instrumental “Incubation” from that notorious Joy Division flexidisc. Hook ends by dedicating “Atmosphere” to New Order’s video producer, the late Michael H. Shamberg, before tying the night together with the bracing tones of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

Absent friends. What a pain.

—David Cotner