This month has seen the release of New Order’s first live album since NOMC15 at the end of 2017. So it goes was recorded at the Old Granada Studios on 13th July 2017 as part of the Manchester International Festival. New Order followers will recall that this was the setting for Joy Division’s first-ever television performance in 1978 on Tony Wilson’s TV show – So it goes (hence the album’s title). Wilson often used this platform to promote up and coming talent from the local area. A canny move on his part, ever the music entrepreneur.
The album is the full 18-song set in its’ entirety but by no means a lazy, greatest hits roll-out. There are some absolute hidden gems on this album, some songs which have rarely been played live. It is clear that the band wanted to do something completely different and inventive, or indeed re-inventive here. In typical, ground-breaking, New Order fashion, the band are joined by a 12-piece, fully synthesised orchestra, led by composer and Mancunian Joe Duddell. For stage design (not that this can be appreciated when you listen), the band collaborated with conceptual artist Liam Gillick.
The opening track, Times Change, from their 1993 Republic album, is the first of two instrumentals during the performance. The setlist reaches back into the days of Joy Division (Disorder), right through to New Order’s 2015 release Music Complete (Plastic), spanning almost 40 years of material. Sumner handles Curtis’s lyrics much more comfortably now, albeit always poignantly. A far cry from those early days when Sumner reluctantly picked up the microphone following the abrupt end of Joy Division. Sumner added at the end of the track, “I get to play & sing at the same time for that one. Hope I’ve mastered the art”. He truly has.
Who’s Joe and Guilt is a Useless Emotion, both from Waiting for the Siren’s Call make an appearance, along with two tracks from New Order’s brilliant and techno-influenced album Technique – Dream Attack and the bitter-sweet Vanishing Point, an album written & released in the midst of the ashes of Sumner’s first marriage.
The 1981 release Movement, was New Order’s first LP in their new guise, following the demise of Joy Division; an album that was widely & aggressively trashed by the English music press at the time. Fast forward to this performance in 2017, the crowd are treated to one of the tracks from this dark period for the band, trying to find themselves and their purpose in such a short time after Ian’s death – In a Lonely Place. You can really feel the band exorcising its demons on this. The original was demoed with Curtis, but never actually released as a Joy Division song. Great to hear it played in a live setting. It also featured as the b-side of the New Order classic Ceremony.
Sumner introduces Shellshock (originally appeared in the Pretty in Pink movie soundtrack) saying, “we’re gonna pick things up a bit now”. The song is a throwback to the wilder, more alcohol & drug-fuelled days of the band. The show also features two songs each from the 1986 Brotherhood (All Day Long & Bizarre Love Triangle) and the 1983 widely-acclaimed Power, Corruption & Lies albums (Ultraviolence & the outstanding Your Silent Face).
The fantastic Sub-culture (from Low-Life), has been stripped down and re-built for this live setting. In my opinion, one of the best tracks on the album. The opening beats build brilliantly into its defining electronic intro from keyboardist Gillian Gilbert. The crowd can be heard clearly loving it.
Joy Division’s Decades (from their posthumous album, Closer) featured during the encore of New Order’s Dublin Trinity College gig earlier this month. This version on this album is as haunting as ever with those iconic Curtis lyrics (“We knocked on the door of Hell’s darker chamber”), complemented perfectly with drummer’s Stephen Morris’s high-hat beats and Sumner’s screaming guitar.
The three-song encore opens with the beautiful instrumental Elegia which the band wrote in 1985 in memory of Curtis. This leads into another Joy Division track, Heart & Soul (also from Closer), before Behind Closed Doors; an unusual and somewhat undermining choice for their final track, yet in keeping with the theme of being completely unpredictable in this live compilation.
It is clear from this release and seeing them perform in Dublin recently, the tensions within the band seem to have completely dissipated. They are playing with the energy that’s always been present, but now with much more freedom & fun. This album be may lacking in ‘hits’ for some fans, but certainly not in texture, depth & pure quality.