It’s sobering to realise this souvenir of New Order’s cumbersomely titled collaboration with conceptual artist Liam Gillick is their fourth live collection in less than a decade.

Recorded in 2017 at the Granada Studios where Tony Wilson hosted So It Goes 40 years ago, the residency offered an opportunity for the band to delight fans with rare performances of Joy Division songs. Sadly, however, much of the show’s impact feels lost without its visual accompaniment: a two-tiered bank of a dozen synth players lined up behind them as part of an apparently “responsive” stage set.

Admittedly, the presence of these Royal Northern College Of Music representatives encouraged the rearrangement of New Order and Joy Division’s back catalogue: one can hear additional details in All Day Long’s instrumental midsection, while Bizarre Love Triangle sounds unusually invigorated and Your Silent Face, with its memorable melodica riff, benefits – especially in its conclusion – from these richer textures.

Still, only the devoted will discern many such tweaks, and they’re barely compensation for a sometimes disappointingly lacklustre band performance. The problem, arguably, lies in Bernard Sumner’s voice: while those same devotees are doubtless immune to his hesitancy, he lacks the gravitas Ian Curtis brought to the sombre In A Lonely Place, and struggles to be heard amid even a relatively fresh track like 2005’s Who’s Joe.

Nevertheless, this can’t distract from Vanishing Point’s bittersweet joys, nor the blissful chorus and disconcertingly jagged edges of Shellshock, while the stuttering rhythm behind Joy Division’s Heart And Soul feels particularly urgent. Interestingly, the night’s highlight resists nostalgia altogether: Plastic, from 2015’s Music Complete, sounds as “special” and “iconic” as Sumner’s lyrics imply, its Moroder-esque arpeggios powering towards a passionate climax.

Whether it alone makes this memento worthy of investment on top of other recent live albums is debatable, but it at least bodes well for those who actually buy gig tickets.


Wyndham Wallace