DVD, Blu-ray and TV

Manch­ester post-punk le­gends re­boot their le­gacy with a lit­tle help from their friends

UNCUT - - News - Stephen Dal­ton

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

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