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Friday 10 September 2021

The Lies We Told Of Youth

New Order are playing a big gig tonight at Heaton Park, North Manchester. I made a fairly late decision a week ago to take up the offer of a ticket from a friend. I was in two minds about going from the moment it was announced, firstly because I came to the conclusion a while ago that standing in a field is rarely the best way to see a band and secondly because I decided also some time ago that I'm not sure it's even New Order without Peter Hook on bass. I understand the argument and split means that he can't be in the band anymore but his playing, presence and sound are such an integral part of the New Order story, especially the glory years of 1981 through to 1990, that without him it sometimes seems more like the Bernard Sumner Experience or Bad Lieutenant plus Gillian Gilbert. But maybe that's just me. 

Why did I change my mind? Firstly because their songs from the 1980s are among the most cherished music I own. Secondly because we've all been starved of gigs and live music recently and we've had to take the decision to avoid indoor events- Isaac, our eldest, is extremely vulnerable and he's at as much risk from Covid now as he was in March 2020. 'Avoid indoor and unventilated spaces, avoid crowds' is the advice we've been given. While we've all been double vaccinated we could still transmit it back to him and being in pubs, restaurants and indoor gigs are about as good a breeding ground Covid as any space as I can think of (excepting schools maybe but I have far less choice about going to one of those every day). I missed Sonic Boom at Yes last week, Will Sergeant in conversation with Dave Haslam a few nights ago and will miss ALFOS at the Golden Lion in Todmorden tomorrow night (an event a small group of us, me included, have been offered an afternoon DJ slot. Gutted does not begin to cover it). So it dawned on me that going to see New Order at Heaton Park could well be the sum total of gigs I'm able to attend between now and next summer. Standing at the edge/ near the back, away from the massed throng, should be fairly safe. And also re: Hooky etc, I thought maybe I should just lighten up.

In April 1984 New Order released a perfect 12" single, the masterpiece that is Thieves Like Us, from the heyday of Factory Records and packaged in typically obtuse but beautiful Peter Saville sleeve. On the B-side is one of the true lost gems in their back catalogue- Lonesome Tonight. Hooky's bass intro snags you immediately, instantly recognisable as him. The guitars are bright and brittle, the drumming understated but spot on- listen to that snare drum snap- and the synths are majestic and soar. Bernard sings something that sounds like he really means it, single tracked and intimate. A happy/ sad mini- epic. The lengthy instrumental end section is where Joy Division were heading (possibly) and where New Order found a way out of the hole they found themselves in in May 1980- the lyrics suggest, a loss of youth, an end of innocence. It is one of the finest things they ever released. 

Lonesome Tonight


Nick L said...

I think I'd have taken up the offer of a ticket as well. However, I saw Peter Hook and The Light a couple of weeks ago, who were superb, and I can't help thinking the soul of the band might rest with him. You'll have a great night though...they are always great live.

Steve said...

And also re: Hooky etc, I thought maybe I should just lighten up.

LOL! Yep maybe....;-) x

Swiss Adam said...

Ha ha. Thanks Steve!

Echorich said...

All your arguments for going are valid SA. I hope it's an enjoyable event. But I have to agree with Nick L, the soul of New Order lies with Peter Hook and this can be evidence by any gig you see from Peter Hook And The Light.
As for Thieves Like Us/Lonesome Tonight, it truly is a perfect single. Thieves Like Us is the band riding along a crest of creativity. They take dance beats, slow them down, give them emotional gravitas and create a thing of aural beauty. On Lonesome Tonight we find Bernard in one of his more lucid lyrical moments and the band reaching almost angelic heights of soundscape - washes of synths, brittle guitars and that bass. The music conveys the story as much as the lyrics.