New Order’s Bernard Sumner
New Order’s Peter Hook
There are two seasons in England—August and Winter. New Order’s day in the park was in danger of being washed out with the kind of rain that only the Mancunians who came down with the band can shrug off as just “bloody weather”.
In support of Sumner & Co were Echo and the Bunnymen, whose 1980s gutter pop was well suited to the weather and the pathetic fallacy of their music perfectly soundtracked the transformation of wet grass into mud. The special guest of Coldplay’s Chris Martin on the “Nothing Lasts Forever” single did more for Martin than for McCulloch.
The brilliance of openers Super Furry Animals was tempered only by the omission of many of their best songs, but “Rings Around the World”, “Juxtapose with You” and “Presidential Suite” glowed, while “The Man Don’t Give a Fuck” was as scorching hot as the weather wasn’t. If you don’t already own this single then buy it now, and if you don’t love it then write to me and I’ll send you the money with a free list of reasons why you’re just plain wrong.
French electro combo Air were teeth—clenchingly dull, but had it been a hot and sunny day, their minimal warbling might have been the perfect background noise to watch the sun go down to. Mid-set there was a downpour of Biblical proportions and the queues for the beer tent shifted to the tea van, but as their set (eventually) ended, so the rain and the clouds parted, letting the first rays of sunshine of the day in. It was the biggest cheer so far.
The thing is, despite weather that would stop you going to the corner shop, let alone standing in a park for six hours, everyone stayed. Everyone was to be rewarded. Sumner apologised for the weather several times as they came on stage but it wasn’t really necessary, as his band were about to tear through a set of blistering perfection.
Two songs in and they played “Transmission”. Yes, the Joy Division song “Transmission”, and throughout the set they also went on to play “Atmosphere”, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and for only the second time in 24 years, “She’s Lost Control”. Far from sounding dated and maudlin, these songs were as uplifting and rousing as anything in their set post-Joy Division, and they made these songs sound as vital as they were when they were first played. For the fifth Joy Division song, “Digital”, Sumner was joined on vocals by actor John Simm who played him in the Factory Records biopic 24-Hour Party People. Art imitates art imitates life.
However, the New Order songs were never put in the shade by the late Ian Curtis tracks. “Bizarre Love Triangle”, “True Faith” and “Temptation” showed just why during the 1980s they left the likes of Kraftwerk and (God help us) The Pet Shop Boys trailing in their wake like seagulls behind a trawler.
For a band tinged with tragedy and bad luck, this was a performance that saw them further oppose the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and confirm themselves as bona fide giants. Thanks to the cost of the packaging, “Blue Monday” lost the band four pence for every single that was sold. It became the biggest selling 12” of all time, but still they played the song that became their financial noose with the kind of passion you would have forgiven them for having lost long ago.
Peter Hook was still pulling his rock poses with his bass slung as low as always, and calling the crowd “cockney wankers” like the pantomime genius he wants to be. All the while, an up-beat Sumner was hopping about during the instrumental parts with some primal war dance and happily letting the crowd vote by a show of hands what they want next—“Right, hands up if you want ‘Rock Shack’? Ok, hands up if you want ‘World In Motion’.”
“World in Motion”, the only football anthem ever that isn’t woeful, got a rare and unrehearsed outing with its chant along chorus—the World Cup is on, after all - so never let it be said that they take themselves too seriously. The fact that a song they only co-wrote was their only number-one single is a moot point, as is the fairly poor sales of their latest album Get Ready. Tonight they were glorious in every way, and if they are Factory Records only—still touring—legacy then maybe Factory wasn’t the failure that some paint it as. Manchester, so much to be grateful for—as Morrisey once never said.