Peter Hook @ Astor Theatre, Perth (30/09/10)

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Peter Hook’s Unknown Pleasures: A celebration of Joy Division has been dogged with controversy since its inception and only recently bought to a head by a vitreous outburst by a certain manic bass player, Mani (ex Stone Roses, currently nailing the bottom end with Primal Scream).

With this in mind, duly supported by my utter adoration of Joy Division, I entered the Astor Theatre with a cautious step and a very open mind.

Petrosex and Craig Hollywood kept the room humming in the time leading up to the head-liners, playing an assortment of electro tunes that snugged in warmly with quickly filling theatre. For some reason the twenty minute film that was aired at previous shows was vetoed out of the equation tonight, giving time for the Front of House to spin some classic Manchester tunes of yore, including (oh the irony) Time to Pretend by MGMT.

When the house lights dimmed to the elastic squelchings of Kraftwerk, the band casually strolled on stage and well, proceeded to be downright casual for the rest of the evening.

The performance was a exercise in utter sacrilege. Peter Hook is infamous for his unique and fantastic bass playing skill but on this occasion he decided to let his back-up bassist do all the work, leaving Hooky to stand there with a bass round his neck in his classic legs-apart stance and attempt some interpretations of the sonorous baritone of Ian Curtis’ voice. Even with a mass of vocal effects and the keyboardist sharing vox duties, Hook barely cut the mustard.

The fact that there was a lyrics book at his feet whose pages were indiscreetly turned at the end of each song did not improve his case. Granted, New Order did the same thing, but at least they went to the trouble of using auto-cues.

That pretty much summed up the show. Hook didn’t bother about the ‘celebration’ bit of the show’s name. His back-up band’s performance was pub rock quality at best, even with the presence of some Hooky kin on stage. Three misfires to a classic Joy Division song (it doesnt even matter which song!) mid-set on what was their last gig of the tour is a case in point.

To say it was like watching a Joy Division cover band is being generous, particularly when the original member requires lyric prompting for every song; whose small amount of audience interaction was indecipherable; and who only played his trademark instrument for 25% of the show. (Yes, it became so arduous that by mid-set this reviewer began timing how long Hook decided he wanted to play bass for.)

That’s how much Hook gave to this ‘celebration’. The only thing celebrating last night was Hook’s bank account balance and Mani, who might still be the biggest party man and loose cannon in Rock’n’Roll, nailed this farcical idea on the head.

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