Peter Hook & The Metropolitan Orchestra present Joy Division Orchestrated @ Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Sunday August 11, 2019.
Following Joy Division Orchestrated‘s sold-out debut concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall in July – featuring the Manchester Camerata orchestra – Peter Hook and conductor Tim Crooks (a fellow Mancunian) perform with Sydney’s The Metropolitan Orchestra for these Australian dates. Seeing The Metropolitan Orchestra’s countless musicians assembled onstage this evening – carefully arranged in their sections on rostra of varying heights – is super exciting, as we anticipate hearing songs from Joy Division’s revered back catalogue reimagined and ‘restrung’. “Salford Rules” is emblazoned on a stage-right amp in bold white letters, referencing Joy Division’s hometown.
Atmosphere comes in early and is blissfully melancholy, reassuring us that Curtis’s memory will be respected. The original chimes used during a Joy Division recording session are played tonight, as back-announced by Hooky. The matchless bassist is in fine form, laughing about how bands on the Big Day Out line-up gave the touring festival a nickname: “Big week off, we used to call it.”
We score three versions of Love Will Tear Us Apart, one of which is a mashup with Captain & Tennille’s Love Will Keep Us Together. Hooky introduces this latter curio as a tribute of sorts to Malcolm McClaren, who gifted the bassist a ticket to ‘that’ gig at Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1976 we all wish we were at: Sex Pistols. “The gig that changed my life,” Hook acknowledges. Hook thanks French band Nova Nova for sending him two mixes of Love Will Tear Us Apart: the piano version that opened tonight’s show, as well as the mash-up, which simultaneously explores two completely contrasting perspectives on love and is fascinating to witness.
When Hook’s not taking lead vocals, Mica Miller and Bastien Marshal take turns. Both Hook and Miller suffer by comparison with Marshal, who is eerily reminiscent of the late Ian Curtis in physical appearance (down to the threads and haircut) and also performance – vocal delivery plus jerky, spasmodic physicality. His likeness miraculously doesn’t jar and somehow never comes across as ‘tribute band’-esque. (We will definitely check out Marshal’s band Detachments at the first available opportunity.) Miller’s vocal contributions work best when they veer furthest away from the operatic.
The scattergun melodic pops in Isolation were always gonna sound incandescent in orchestral form. Shimmering strings underscore Twenty Four Hours, but Miller’s vocal contributions are too conspicuous in the mix. Before intermission, Hook presents a new Monaco song: Higher, Higher, Higher Love (this outfit’s first new song in 19 years, which was debuted at Royal Albert Hall). We’re told Hooky and guitarist David Potts, his other Monaco musical half, wrote this song about their love for Joy Division. It incorporates snippets from vintage Joy Division interviews and has a cinematic feel with urgent riffs. Hook staunchly sidesteps to the beat then rises up and down on the balls of his feet to deliver the chant-like chorus before the plaintive bassline – a feature throughout this song – closes out the arrangement like a sole mourner.
In Joy Division Orchestrated’s second half, Atrocity Exhibition bristles with brass blasts as Marshal repeatedly beckons in menacing fashion, “This is the way, step inside!” As much as we wish it were Stephen Morris up there behind the drum kit, the drumming throughout this show is masterful and precise. When Hooky’s pathos-satched She’s Lost Control bassline kicks in, we’re in bits. As much as you might think others (including his son, Jack, who has accompanied his Dad during previous tours, as part of The Light, but has now been poached by Billy Corgan for The Smashing Pumpkins live shows) ably tackle Hook’s technique, when you hear the master at work there really is no comparison; Hooky’s shiny burgundy low-slung bass weeps (albeit far from gently).
Strings regularly enter arrangements with the urgency of those that accompany Psycho‘s shower scene. Digital (“Day in, day out”) is hypnotic brilliance, but it’s during the encore that fans get up outta their seats and get loose, swarming down the aisles to physically express themselves as well as their love for Joy Division. Transmission demands, “Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio,” and we need no encouragement. Then it’s third time’s a charm for Love Will Tear Us Apart, during which a lone stage invader clambers onto the dais but is quickly dealt with. A mic is directed into the audience and finds a tonedeaf, drunk, front-row punter (which we could do without). But it’s a celebration up in here, which Hooky must find cathartic.
Wandering through MCEC’s endless corridors post-show, overheard punter chitchat confirms an overall thumbs-up for what we’ve just experienced, although the titles of songs not included in tonight’s setlist roll off people’s tongues – perhaps Hooky’s angling for Joy Division Orchestrated Part Deux? If this is the case, please bring back Marshal to take all of the vocals so that Hooky’s freed up to focus exclusively on that bass.