Thursday, 17 August 2017
Oh I Don't Know Why People Lie
Day 4 of New Order week and I've got two live performances for you and some discussion of related recorded work. First up is this, sometimes described as one of the two Holy Grails of NO live bootlegs (the other is the debut performance at The Beach Club in Shudehill, Manchester, 1980).
On June 30th 1983 New Order played a gig at Cabaret Metro in Chicago. It was a blisteringly hot day, temperatures in the club reaching the high 90s. New order were famously hit and miss during this period, partly due to their own approach to playing and partly due to having equipment that was totally unsuited to live performance, sequencers and synths and drum machines. In Chicago the crowd were already a bit irate and not just due to the heat. The support act had finished over two hours before New Order took the stage. The gear makes it through the first four songs and then during Truth the sequencer starts to misbehave. The y make it through Leave Me Alone with no problems but the long gap between the end of that song and the start of Your Silent Face is punctuated by bleeps and bursts from the sequencer and audience members and bass players complaining about the heat. From here on in it's a kind of NO unplugged gig. The tape of this gig recently found its way into the hands of blogger and New order enthusiast The Power Of Independent Trucking and he has presented it for our enjoyment here with a FLAC download. These are his words about the rest of the gig...
Eventually, “Your Silent Face” starts. It devolves into a unique and fascinating exposition on what a sequencer-using band does when the sequencers are failing mid song - Steve Morris jumps behind the drum kit far earlier than usual, and essentially drives the song to its skittering end as the sequencers never recover. I think this take is spectacular and I think you’ll agree.
Barney then makes reference on stage to equipment and power problems, mentions the band’s just going to jam, and Steve then pounds out the drum riff for “Denial”. Instead of jamming, the band then finishes the set with four straight sequencer-free tracks, ending on the majestic “In A Lonely Place” well into the wee hours of the morning.
There is no jamming, no acoustic “Blue Monday” despite the venue owner’s misremembered statements made over the years since. It’s possible of course at some point these did exist and were edited out from this tape upstream, but I doubt it and all other recollections of this gig fail to mention any acoustic “Blue Monday” performances.
While listening to this on Youtube the other night a link in the sidebar caught my eye which was this one, a gig from 1986 at the Spectrum Arena in Birchwood, Warrington. The venue no longer exists but there is a large Ikea near where it was. There's progress for you. This is a soundboard recording opening with stand alone single State Of The Nation and then taking in songs from the previous six years.
State of the Nation
As It Is When It Was
Your Silent Face
Age of Consent
Sunrise (cut short)
Sunrise is cut short due to the tape running out and according to some of those that were there the group did return for an encore, long after the lights had gone up and half the audience had left, running through Love Will Tear Us Apart but this hasn't been recorded. This is a good quality recording and the band sound on fire, a slightly misfiring Confusion aside.
The Warrington gig was a few months before the release of Brotherhood. Brotherhood is a funny record. I listened to it the other day. It doesn't have the great leap forward of Power, Corruption And Lies nor the newly found confidence of Lowlife and lacks the skyscraping quality of Technique's songs. It's a bunch of songs plus Bizarre Love Triangle. It's is divided into side 1 (rockier songs) and side 2 (dancier songs) and side 2 is the clear winner. Bizarre Love Triangle is arguably their greatest song and the three that follow are all top notch (All Day Long, Angel Dust, Every Second Counts). Side 1 is five songs that are all good album tracks but together they seem to lose something. Maybe it is the division into two separate sides that doesn't work and sequenced differently they'd stand out more. The five are Paradise, Weirdo, As It Is When It Was, Broken Promise and Way Of Life. Broken Promise is reminiscent of early NO, powerful, stacked full of guitars and churning lyrics. As It Is When It Was is a hidden beauty, starting slow and sparse but gaining in pace and urgency, the Love Will Tear Us Apart bass riff reappearing, a song that would make a top ten of New Order non-single songs. As would Way Of Life which burns and fizzes with some great guitar-bass interaction, Hooky reversing the Age Of Consent bassline. Paradise and Weirdo are decent songs but definitely album tracks- Paradise a bit lightweight and an odd opener to these ears. Weirdo is stronger, pumping bass and drums but a bit tinny maybe. If you go to Youtube you'll find people saying that these two are their favourite NO songs. I wouldn't go that far but I've been re-listening to side 1 this week and found a lot in these songs to enjoy. Maybe it's just that I don't listen to them that often and the novelty gives them freshness. It's hard to get away from the feeling though that overall as an album, in some ways, it hasn't got the same magic that Power, Corruption And Lies, Lowlife or Technique have.
Barney blames the overdubbing, too much of it, too many instruments layered on top of each other. Brotherhood was surrounded by some of New Order's best singles too- True Faith and Touched By The Hand Of God both came out within the following year and Shellshock and State Of The Nation preceded it (Ok, maybe neither of the 1986 pair is quite as good as the 1987 pair). It just goes to show that, despite all the tensions within the group (and according to both Hook and Sumner there were many by this point), they were still capable of making truly great songs but their insistence on dividing songs into singles and albums (which I applaud on the whole) meant that the album got shortchanged a bit. Stephen Morris has said that dividing Brotherhood into rock and dance sides didn't quite work and I think I'd agree. On the other hand Hooky likes the five rockier songs together, showing, as he sees it, 'what the band was all about'. So it goes.