When the Buzzcocks invited the new darlings of the rock and roll world, Joy Division, to be their opening act many people thought it was a disastrous move. The Ian Curtis-led group were slowly becoming the most exciting band in Britain while the Buzzcocks, in 1979, were seemingly on the wane.
That’s not the punk spirit which saw the Buzzcocks triumph, however, and the Manchester group welcomed their fellow Mancunians on to the tour—and Joy Division did not disappoint. Below we revisit their homecoming show at Manchester’s Apollo Theatre on October 27th, 1979.
The performance, being an opening slot, means the group needed to cull down their larger setlist. The group had been touring for some time when they were welcomed by the Buzzcocks and had already built up a strong following after a series of fire-breathing performances, especially in their native Manchester.
We should say that the footage below isn’t necessarily Joy Division at their best. In fact, they seem a little hampered by not only the size of the venue but also the restrictions on being an opening act. Due to the strict time schedule on the Buzzcocks tour, Joy Division were only allowed to play for 32 minutes with no encore. It was enough to encourage a cacophony of boos from the crowd. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Joy Division take to the stage and instantly move into the doom-laden ‘Dead Souls’, the first track of the set to be played from their upcoming new record Closer. It may go some way to explaining the lack of energy from the crowd, or indeed, it may be that the audience had fallen victim to something a lot of JD audiences suffered from—being frozen in awe.
Arriving on stage as one of the hottest acts in town, Joy Division made a big call when picking their setlist filled with their new numbers. While Unknown Pleasures had pulsated with post-punk energy the new record was a more grounded affair, a slow seeping of melancholy that may have confused the punk-hardened crowd.
After a run of new numbers, including the middle number which unbeknownst to those in the crowd would go on to symbolise the band forevermore. It would see Curtis pick up his guitar and Albrecht move on to the organ for a stunning rendition of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.
Following it up, the group would provide the crowd with a little lip service by performing ‘Shadowplay’ (the song they had debuted on Tony Wilson’s ‘Granada Reports’ in 1978), ‘She’s Lost Control’ and ending with ‘Transmission’ to rapturous applause.
The video below from Richard Boon may not go down in history as one of the most fearsome Joy Division performances of all time but it remains one of the clearest indications of their musical evolution. This is where Joy Division were heading if not for a set of tragic circumstances.
- Dead Souls
- Love Will Tear Us Apart
- She’s Lost Control