Peter Hook & The Light at Bodega was brilliant. The lasting impression I had from seeing the band play 'Unknown Pleasures' live in 2010 was reinforced last night - Hooky's a fantastic showman - warm, funny, highly energetic and great to watch.
A horde of sweaty 40-50-somethings packed Bodega (interspersed with the occasional scrawny hipster, scuttling between the gaps), transforming the venue's medium-sized dancefloor into a heaving mass, and effortlessly bringing with them a vitality and enthusiasm that would put many-a-crowd half their age to shame. Hook and his band thoroughly capitalised on that energy and reciprocated by the bucket load.
He's not just a great performer, but an excellent singer, which doesn't rate a mention as often as it should. As audacious as it may be to say, there are moments when Hook's voice brings echoes of Ian Curtis' back to life. It would be difficult to imagine why he wasn't elected as Curtis' replacement in New Order, were it not so impractical for that band's full-time bassist to also have to double as the singer. But here, in The Light, with his son Jack handling the bulk of bass duties and allowing Hook to front the band and focus on melodic lead bass parts, there are points in the set when it's no great stretch to imagine what New Order might have sounded like with Curtis.
The constants on the tour are the two New Order album sets, whereas the opening Joy Division set and encores have varied most nights of the Aus/NZ tour. Being more of a Joy Division fan, I was mildly disappointed by a slightly shorter opening set for Wellington, but loved that they focused on songs like Atmosphere and Twenty Four Hours rather than the more predictable dancefloor hits.
The encores, which included soaring renditions of Temptation and True Faith, more than compensated for the shorter opening set and absence of obvious crowd-pleasers, climaxing with a triumphant Love Will Tear Us Apart, which hasn't been a regular on the tour - I think only Melbourne and Wellington so far. It felt as though the Wellington crowd had earned it.
An older friend commented that he'd had some reservations before coming along, about "the whole pimping out the back catalog thing". I've heard that sentiment more than a few times, and I get it; nothing wrong with a healthy dose of cynicism where questions of artistic integrity are concerned. At 40, I'm probably a youngster in the eyes of many friends who still remember when Joy Division were a current band; having only discovered a lot of seminal bands of that era retrospectively must of course give me a very different perspective on being able to see shows like this nowadays.
Notwithstanding, I think there are artists who've reached a point in their respective careers where they are more than entitled to earn a living from touring their own musical legacies, shared or otherwise. Where Peter Hook & The Light are concerned, the songs are delivered with a palpable sense of passion and sincerity - you just know that he loves what he's doing, which is one of the most enjoyable aspects of seeing the band.
Great show, fun night. Loved it.
Michel also stars in Disjecta Membra … (Bandcamp link here)