Peter Hook and The Light performed a very special concert on September 14th, at the historic Music Box on Hollywood Boulevard. Hook, the former bass player of the pivotal “New Wave” Manchester band Joy Division, actually brought his new band to Los Angeles for a pair of unique shows. The first performance, centered around the 1980 seminal second album of the legendary band “Closer” which they played in it's entirety. The Music Box provided the perfect atmosphere for the resurrection of the Joy Division sound, which many music historians regard as the precursor to Goth music . Originally built in 1926, the baroque old theater was a state of the art movie house during the advent of talking motion pictures. The theater is slowly being restored to its original gilded splendor, but still has the patina of aged abandonment, creating a classic dark atmosphere for brooding musical artists with a penchant for angst ridden lyrics.
Fans arrived early for the show, which was announced with little fanfare or commercial advertising. The bars quickly filled in the dimly lit theater, while a DJ perched in an gilded ornate nook far above the crowd, played an appropriately downbeat set of old and new somber electronic beats. The show began with a thirty minute documentary of the early days of Joy Division, featuring a series of patched together early attempts at music videos and interviews covering the bands four year history (1976-80). Joy Division, which took their name from a 1955 novella, “The House of Dolls”, referring to slave prostitutes in Nazi concentration camps, began their musical career emulating punk bands like the Sex Pistols. But under the influence of producer Martin Hannet, the bands' first album, “Unknown Pleasures”, took on a new haunting sound that was the precursor to many of the most successful acts of the1980's like The Cure and Depeche mode. They also predated Bauhaus, the band most associated with the forefront of Goth music. Joy Division’s uniquely brooding sound has been considered by many music critics as the missing link between the 70's Punk movement and the 80's New Wave and Goth period. Joy Division was fronted by charismatic and melancholy vocalist Ian Curtis. The lead singer suffered from the dual demons of depression and epilepsy. Epileptic attacks often triggered during the bands live performances, left Curtis embarrassed and thrust him further into depression. The troubled singer committed suicide shortly before the release of “Closure”, in 1980. Ironically, the album spawned the band's biggest hit song “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, and Curtis suicide led to massive media coverage. The troubled poet was compared to Jim Morrison in the media of the day, in substance and their shared tragic end. The other band members, Hook on Bass, Bernard Summer on guitar and keyboards, and Stephen Morris on drums, went on the form the more commercially successful New Order, in the 1980's. In an acrimonious split, New Order is planning a new tour without Hook, a fact that the feisty Bass player made veiled references to during his performance.
After the film, opening act El Ten Eleven took the stage for a short explosive thirty minute set. The Los Angeles group, composed of drummer Tim Fogarty and Bassist and Guitar player Kristian Dunn, set themselves apart from other power rock duos that have been so popular of late, by playing an almost jazz like frenzied rock. The seasoned performers, who have been together since 2003, create a hybrid sound harkening back to progressive jazz rock bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever, but with a 21st century twist reminiscent of bands like Radiohead. Dunn, alternating on a twelve string guitar and a fretless bass, played frenzied jams, modified by an array of electronic enhancements triggered by a sea of foot peddles. Fogarty complemented him with a relentless drumbeat. Listening to the intense wall of sound it was sometimes hard to believe that it was being created solely by a duo of of masterful musicians. In keeping with the theme of the night the band did a cover of Joy Division’s song “Disorder”, which they just released as an MP3.
Just after 10.30, The Light took the stage and Peter Hook launched into a bass drenched version of the opening song on the Closer album, “Incubation”. Hook's son Jack Bates also plays bass in the band, creating a thunderous overtone well suited to the somber sound, and allowing Hook to pause occasionally to concentrate on his lead vocal duties. The band's guitar player, Nat Watson also gave a youthful vibration to the band with his spirited and diversified attack on his well worn guitar. Mercurial singer Perry Farrell made a surprise appearance to sing the sixth song in the set, “Isolation”. Farrell looking dapper and out of place, in his dressy clothes, has been a longtime fan of Joy Division and asked Hook to play bass on his “Satellite Party” side project. Farrell's Whirling Dervish lead singing style blended nicely with the band, conjuring memories of Ian Curtis' famous “Dead Fly Dance”, where he would wave his hands incessantly in a trance like state. During the next song, in one of Hook's veiled jabs at his former band mates, just after an intense bass driven version of “Passover”, he praised his son's bass playing and quipped “Keep that up and you will get yourself a job with New Order”. Another Joy Division fan, music maven Moby, then climbed out of the audience and on to the stage, much to the astonishment of the crowd around him, to take over vocals for the next two songs, “Colony” and “A Means To An End”. Moby also performed in an appropriately spirited and trance like fashion before disappearing back into the crowd. Hook finished the rest of the songs on the album with strong vocals in his more baritone style, which lent itself well to the bands fresh interpretation of the timeless material.
After the conclusion of the album, the band returned for a multi song encore of other Joy Division songs. Moby returned to the stage for a gyrating punk infused rendition of “Transmission”. Hook took the lead on Joy Division’s most enduring and haunting song “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. The band was set to perform a sister show at the nearby El Rey theater, on September 16. , featuring Joy Division’s first album “Unknown Pleasures”. There seems to be a growing trend in the live music world to present classic albums in their entirety like these shows. For true fans of the music, the artistic merits of hearing a piece played as it was written, in lieu of strung together commercial hits, provides a far more interesting and uniquely rewarding live music experience.