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Peter Hook Brings Joy Division Back To Life

Royal Oak, MI – When anyone mentions the name Joy Division it brings up a powerful surge of dark energy. I mean, they were named after a Nazi Germany prostitute division. Ian Curtis was the lead singer for this UK based band and was just 23 when he decided to hang himself. He left behind an infant daughter and a young wife. Oddly enough, he decided to kill himself right when the band was about to embark on a U.S. tour. There are many legends at this point as to how he actually hung himself that are too numerous to go into how.

This was never a feel good fun band. And even If you do like a couple of their tunes listening to them for a great length of time can seem overwhelming. Yet, you go back to them because they have a hypnotic quality to them and in the context of techno music, Goth and the age that they lived in, (1978, 1979) they deserve to be listened to again. I still find myself swearing off of them for good and then I creep back and play one or two of their songs and ask myself the same questions over and over.

For me that question was always, “Why in the world did this have to happen?” I am referring of course to the death of lead singer Ian Curtis who died in 1980. I also find myself trying to figure out his illness, mental state, and whether or not I could have really helped him in some way had I been living in his time and the same age. Unfortunately, for me that would have been an impossibility due to our age difference, ( I was 12 when he passed away and living in America). I only heard about him in books, (one written by his widow) and recordings and thru the hip kids who seemed to have an inside on who he really was. I had to do my own homework and piece together what happened.

I could have let this go. But when I heard that Peter Hook and the Light were going to do a New Order set and a Joy Division set I figured I was seeing a piece of history. Plus I witnessed a video of, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” at a church where Ian Curtis was from. The whole thing seemed so powerful and I couldn’t resist seeing it for myself. I wanted to be there and I even told myself that it was a once in a lifetime experience.

I got so revved up that I even went out to buy a new pair of Dr. Martens boots. Of course when showtime came all my friends who swore up and down they wouldn’t miss out ended up bailing. No problem, I jumped right in the pit and got myself a front row view. Hooky, as he is known, was the original bass player for Joy Division and he came out front in center with stickers plastered all over his bass. The band launched into a bunch of New Order songs which were poppy, memorable and pleasant. This was referred to as, “Silly white peoples music” by some Detroit bloggers but we get the idea. It was college rock, the birth of alternative radio, or “new music” as it was once called.

There was an intermission but getting to the bar was out of the question. I wasn’t going to lose my place in the pit. There was very little air being pumped in to the front rows and I was covered in sweat and wearing a black t-shirt.

The lighting actually changed for Joy Division. All the colorful spot lights for the New Order sight were taken out and it was replaced with very sparse light light beams in a very dark environment. The drums and Peter Hook’s bass were overpowering and driving the emotions straight to my chest and into my heart. “Oh my God” I thought to myself, “is the whole rest of the show going to be like this? I am not going to make it !!”. From there the band ripped through, “Isolation”, “Digital”, “She Lost Control” and others and I couldn’t stand to be in this space. I started to understand the overall dread that Ian Curtis must have went through. The theater started to feel like an all encompassing tomb. I felt like I was being buried alive.

I wanted water. I was thirsty. I was thirsty for light, love and acceptance. This was a really heavy experience and I almost couldn’t wait for it to finally end. But this show kept delivering and kept driving. This was an endurance test. My temples pounded along with the heavy bass lines and the sweat poured out of my forehead and ran down my neck. My feet felt numb and I was immersed in their world and I felt trapped and this was just half of the set and not even a full Joy Division show!

These songs couldn’t be easy for Hook to do either night after night. They are historical in their own right and it is done as a tribute to a long lost friend whose life has taken on a cult like following. If it were me I would be tempted to just let it all go. I wouldn’t have the strength to drag on my friends sad legacy like that night after night. I could see the emotional strain on Peter Hook’s face while performing.

So now this set was done for Ian Curtis, for the fans of Joy Division and really for the music. We were in this dark set together and I was eagerly awaiting the end. The tracks, “Isolation” took me further into darkness and I was looking for relief. By the time, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” I was ready for it and it came at the very end. It was if we were finally released from a dark prison. The lights kicked on and ushered in a feeling a release and freedom. People threw their arms up in the air and there was real joy in the crowd. I was glad to have held my position in the audience after all.

I don’t know if I would do this again because it was a very intense experience. But yet I was glad it was over and that I have survived the mania of it all. The ending of this show was euphoric and there was nothing else I could compare it to.

Peter Hook and the Light are doing the New Order and Joy Division set right now in a European leg of their tour.



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