DVD, Blu-ray and TV
Manchester post-punk legends reboot their legacy with a little help from their friends
New Order, Lodge 49
Agathering of unquiet ghosts and hauntological echoes, new Order’s five bespoke shows in granada television’s cavernous former Coronation Street soundstage became the hottest ticket at Manchester international Festival last summer. Performing with a 12-piece synthesiser orchestra, they dug deep into their back catalogue as both Joy Division and new Order, assembling a left-field set list peppered with rarities and reworkings. the location of these performances, at the same studio complex where the late Factory label co-founder tony Wilson gave the band their first tV break in 1978, added extra poignant resonance.
these collaborative shows went under the ungainly umbrella title ∑ (no, 12k, Lg, 17Mif) – new Order + Liam gillick: So it goes…, referencing both the high-art pretensions of Factory and Wilson’s fabled punk-era tV show on granada. the new York-based British artist gillick was responsible for the striking stage design, a twostorey architectural structure with individual cabins for each synth player, all fitted with automated louvre blinds that opened and shut throughout the set. this reviewer attended one of the Manchester gigs, and the theatrical effect was certainly spectacular, albeit unnervingly reminiscent of the vintage quiz show Celebrity Squares.
Made for Sky arts by director Mike Christie, Decades is a polished, diligent but fairy conventional documentary chronicling this show’s painstaking genesis, all framed by some light probing of new Order’s state of mind in 2018. the performance footage was not shot in Manchester but at a second wave of european shows in May this year, at festivals in Vienna and turin. Once again, the stage ensemble features a dozen young keyboard players recruited from Manchester’s royal northern College of Music, all conducted and arranged by Joe Duddell, a music professor with a long track record of adventurous orchestral-rock collaborations.
Pleasingly, although Decades is not a straight concert documentary, Christie treats the music with respect. Dropping five full-length numbers into the film at measured intervals, he trusts viewers to pay attention, with no cutaways or interruptions. reshuffling the original running order, the first song played is a palatial reboot of “Plastic” from new Order’s fêted 2015 comeback Music Complete, its propulsive Moroder-besotted bassline couched in luxuriant new electronic foliage. “Sub-Culture” becomes a baroque effusion of rolling harpsichord chimes and evergeen live favourite “Bizarre Love triangle” a shimmering symphonic banger, although a sharper editor might have excised its partial segue into “Vanishing Point”, or just included both.
Stately and monumental, “Your Silent Face” sounds absolutely magnificent bathed in the full sunshine glare of a massed synth army. the only underwhelming choice here is “Decades” itself, which loses something in translation from gothic, icy original to lush, cinematic processional. More exacting fans may also have preferred to hear one of the rarer cuts from the show, like “Disorder” and “Ultraviolence”, both unheard live for more than 30 years.
inevitably, given new Order’s iconic stature, Decades has the feel of an officially approved promotional item. Peter Saville, Dave haslam and Jon Savage are as reliably articulate as ever, but obvious choices with personal connections to the band, the city and the festival. it would be refreshing just occasionally to hear younger, more irreverent, commentators give a fresh slant on new Order’s legacy. a flicker of that old Factory-era punk mischief might have been welcome.
Decades is partly a tributes to absent friends, with new Order paying due homage to Wilson, ian Curtis and rob gretton in their career-spanning interviews. But anybody looking for juicy insights into the band’s bitter legal battle with former bandmate Peter hook, which was finally settled between the Manchester shows and the european dates, will find precious little gossip here. Between the generally excellent musical segments, which are mostly shot from multiple angles on handheld cameras, Decades is an agreeable reminder of just how singular and eccentric new Order remain after almost 40 years together. Despite their early reputation for surly arrogance, they are still among the most down-to-earth, selfdeprecating and endearingly human of rock legends. Sumner’s bone-dry wit runs like a thread throughout the film. “We couldn’t afford to buy equipment in the early days,” he muses at one point, “which is strange because we could afford to buy the haçienda.”
Order of service: (l-r) Phil Cunningham, Tom Chapman, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and Bernard Sumner