Watching the two halves of New Order (well the 3/4 and 1/4) tear themselves apart has been painful for lifelong fans. And now with both factions touring, colours need to be nailed to masts. I’m firmly in the Hooky corner – seeing ‘New Order’ without his lo-slung bass dominating left of stage is something I just couldn’t stomach.
But I was still wary of what was billed as ‘a celebration of Joy Division’ fearing at worst a bad tribute act. I needn’t have worried. I always suspected that PH was closer to the spirit of Joy Division than the rest of New Order, and the passion displayed in tonight’s performance bore this out. There was none of Barney’s flippancy, screwed up lyrics,bum notes and drunken uncle at a wedding dancing. Hooky played it with heart and soul.
The set began (at a ridiculously early 8.20 – what is it with gigs these days) with a couple of Warsaw songs, moved up a gear with Glass and Digital then the band performed the whole of Unknown Pleasures in album track order. I got my first neck shivers of the night at the intro to Disorder. The ‘big’ tracks – New Dawn Fades; She’s Lost Control; Shadowplay were huge – the two battling bases were so loud on Shadowplay I thought I was going to have a nosebleed. Even the ‘down’ tracks on the album (the ones I usually skip on the ipod these less angst filled days) didn’t drag like I thought they might.
The band he’s put together are so tight – his son Jack is a dextrous bassist in his dad’s mould; the guitarist was awesome and the drumming was as crisp and powerful as Steve Morris’. They made me realise how truly awesome New Order could have been live if they hadn’t pissed around (and they were mostly pissed) with half hour sets, bum notes, no encores and general ‘couldn’t give a toss attitude’. Hooky and his band play these songs with passion, treating them with the respect they know they deserve and the reverence they know the audience holds them in.
The first encore raised the tempo and temperature with an anthemic Transmission; a pounding Isolation; a hypnotic Dead Souls and a beautiful version of Decades – with Hooky even taking up the melodica for the final haunting refrain. The final encore began with Warsaw – reminding us on Jubilee day that Joy Division started out as a punk band – before bringing old men to tears with Love Will Tear Us Apart. But that wasn’t the end. as if to remind us that the New Order legacy is also his legacy he finished the set with probably the best live version of Ceremony I’ve ever heard.
The night brought more joy to a room full of ageing men than a hooker in an old folk’s home.
December 10, 2010
When I was a raincoat wearing student, way back when, I’d spend far too many evenings hunched over a pint in a seedy north London pub arguing with my mate Nigel about which was the best debut album, Crododiles or Unknown Pleasures. Sometimes things would get a bit heated. God knows what the old soaks in the pub made of two floppy haired fops getting emotional in the corner. But for some reason this seemed really important. Hell, it still does.
I was reminded of this tonight when All that Jazz came on the radio as I was doing the washing up. Its still sounds good, better than good, brilliant even. My God – was I wrong? Have I been wrong all these years? I’ve always been such a fundamentalist in my steadfast belief that Unknown Pleasures was, is, the best debut album by anyone ever. But is my faith as blind as that of an ayatollah?
So I went back to the beginning, or tried. I revisited both albums as if I’d never seen or heard them before.
It had to be the vinyl versions. Unknown Pleasures was easy to find, sitting as it always has at the front of my record collection. Year zero. But where was Crododiles? Where were the Bunnymen in my order of merit? Behind the Fall – no. After Cabaret Voltaire – no, not there either. Surely not behind Theatre of Hate? Further and further back, until lurking behind The Doors I found it. As if to prove a point I’d hidden it at the back of my collection.
I held them both, examined the covers, trying to get in touch with my 16 year old self handling them for the first time. Both strike a cord with my impressionable young self. Crocodiles for Mac’s pose and his thousand yard stare, and the coats, always the long coats. Unknown Pleasures for the iconography and mystery. Both bands were myth-making, even then, consciously or not.
I drop Unknown Pleasures onto my dusty turntable. Outside first, of course. The opening drum, bass and fractured guitar of Disorder sounds as good as it did in the dark bedroom where I lay and listened to it 30 years ago. Insight, New Dawn Fades, She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay, right through to I Remember Nothing , still sound as vital, claustrophobic and starkly beautiful as they did then. More so,maybe. Hannett’s production sharp as razor-wire.
So to Crocodiles. Side one starts strongly with Going Up and builds to a crescendo with Monkeys and Crocodiles. Side two is even better – Rescue, Villiers Terrace, Pictures on My Wall and All That Jazz, classics all. Only the last track, Happy Death Men is a disappointment.
So what have a learnt in the 30 years since both albums were released? That they are both classics and arguing over which is the best is as futile as trying to choose between Picasso and Michelangelo, Pele and Cruyff, Kylie and Dannii.
I can only thank God that I grew up in a time when these two great works of art were created.