Peter Hook “Tears Apart” San Francisco’s Mezzanine with memories (12/10)

It was evident that the people at Peter Hook‘s San Francisco gig cared about two things. The first was the past; the second was Joy Division. The second one is totally obvious. Why else would you go to Hook’s current solo tour, in which he and his backing band have been playing Joy Division’s debut masterpiece, Unknown Pleasures? But how is it people care so much about them now, over 30 years later when their lead singer has been long deceased, they haven’t released any new material, and Peter Hook isn’t touring under their name? It’s quite obvious that a majority of musicians nowadays have taken a note or two from the Manchester madmen. Bands like U2, LCD Soundsystem, the Killers, Muse, and the Arcade Fire have all taken some tips, and I can almost guarantee you David Byrne saw clips of Ian Curtis and learned how to dance. Peter Hook’s music is so important because for that time period, they stuck out like a sore thumb, and everybody wanted to hurt like that.

This is why Peter Hook was able to sell out the Mezzanine, a venue that sounds exactly like the kind of place one of Tony Wilson’s cohorts would want to play. The run-down looking venue, consisting of dim blue lighting, was packed to the brim. Various members of the crowd bumped into me any time somebody went to go buy a drink. Drunk Joy Division fans swayed back and forth like ticking time bombs, waiting to hurl everywhere. The weirdest thing about everything, though, was the crowd. Obviously, those attending a Peter Hook show would be gloomier than those attending an Edward Sharpe concert, but these people were just morose. I also noticed that half of them looked old enough to be my parents, while the other half were the hippest young folk in San Francisco, all sporting retro concert shirts and three-piece suits.

When the lights finally dimmed, a video began to play on the monitors scattered about the venue. The video contained numerous interviews with Hook from over the years, including one such interview conducted on MTV2 before it became MTV Repeats. While the video was very nostalgic and informative, the crowd stopped caring about halfway through it. The film went on for about 20 minutes, and by the 10th minute, everyone began to scream for Peter Hook to get on stage. Clips from music videos, live performances, and from The 24 Hour Party People played, and when Tony Wilson finally signed off on So It Goes…, the crowd began to roar.

Hook finally emerged on the stage, looking happier than ever to greet a crowd of screaming Joy Division fans. Peter immediately picked up his bass (one of two basses being played), and opened up with the dreary punk drawl of “No Love Lost”. While Hook’s vocals were a bit deeper and more ghoulish then the late Ian Curtis, he still did a good job of making the song sound like it did back in the day. Hook and his band then launched into “Leaders of Men”, which stirred up the crowd.

This show is probably the closest thing to a Joy Division concert that anybody will see nowadays. They can’t reunite, they can’t headline Bonnaroo, and, even if they could, it would be a New Order show, full of dance pop tunes. Joy Division’s heyday label of “post-punk”, on the other hand, was captured accurately by this show. It was much more raw and stripped down, just like Unknown Pleasures was at its time of conception. This was all abundantly clear to me when Peter Hook launched into “Digital”, one of Joy Division’s more punk-leaning numbers, reminiscent of their days as Warsaw. This was the most positive crowd reaction all night — a reaction characterized by a bit of moshing, the crowd screaming along with Hook “Day in! Day out!,” a smile on my face, and a video on my camera that I’ll revisit again in the near future.

After “Digital”, the band began the marquee portion of the evening, Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. At this point though, the crowd’s intensity took a nosedive. Hook and company played their hearts out, with all the fury and nostalgia coming from every note. The crowd, however, was not there to rock out. For the duration of Unknown Pleasures, the majority of the crowd stood idly as they watched their favorite songs come to life by one of their creators, all starting with the über-catchy bass and leading drum kick of “Disorder”.

The next half hour was nothing but throwback for both Hook and the audience. “Disorder” transitioned into the ever-creepy and dark “Day of the Lords”, and the band wasted no time blowing through the despair of “Candidate”, “Insight”, and a very tight, reverb-filled “New Dawn Fades”. I half-expected the second half of the album to get the crowd going, but once again, everybody stood by watching casually. “She’s Lost Control” sounded just as raw as when Martin Hammet made them record it on a roof, and the band slapped tremendously on “Shadowplay” in such a way that I couldn’t believe nobody around me was freaking out Ian Curtis style. The band closed out the album and first set with the final three songs, “Wilderness”, “Interzone”, and “I Remember Nothing”, then exited the stage for a mere moment.

When they returned, Peter Hook discussed the fact that a friend of his had passed away in the past week. He seemed a bit choked up about the matter, but then launched into an emotional rendition of “Atmosphere”, in which he hit every vocal note perfectly. Even in the video at the beginning, he mentioned that when he saw the “Atmosphere” montage in 24 Hour Party People, it brought tears to his eyes, and you could tell this night that this is how he felt about the song all the time. The band finished up the set with an ecstatic version of “Transmission” which got the crowd a bit rowdy for the second time that night. And finally, of course, was the Joy Division staple, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, which caused chills to run down my spine. It was the closest thing I’ll ever see to Joy Division, and it was definitely pretty sweet.

Hook and company put on a great show. I was pleased with the band, the song choices, and the caliber of musicianship put into the performance. However, the crowd’s morosity was a disappointment. Like I said, it was a Joy Division show, so it makes total sense, but I feel if the band has gotten such a reputation over time, people would be elated to dance to their favorite songs. The thing is though, people appreciate the past and value its importance, but one can only dance to “Transmission” so hard by today’s standards. To remember what’s important, some of us listen to our favorite songs, and some of us travel around and play them. We learn to move on, but still recall the memories of yesterday and better ways. Some of us do that by listening to Joy Division, and appreciate the fact a band like that existed. Peter Hook goes around and plays Joy Division songs, and doesn’t just appreciate the fact his band existed; he reminisces on the times they had. And lucky for us, we get to hear it live, whether we dance to it or not.


Follow Consequence