We’re big fans of Joy Division here at Far Out Magazine. But, that’s not really a big accolade, pretty much anyone who has listened to rock music for a portion of their lives will have, at least, a respect for the band, if not a complete adoration. We’re very much the latter, so we were thrilled to find this footage of the band performing at a Bowdon Valley Youth Club, Altrincham in 1979. It’s a time capsule of what made Joy Division so incredibly captivating.
The footage is late-seventies ropey, so do expect the odd glitch here and there but it does show off the band’s pure intensity just before their rocket was preparing to launch. Filmed on 14th March it was another gig on the seemingly never-ending tour that, the late, Ian Curtis, Barney Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris undertook to try and make their mark on the music industry. The gig was a full 3 months before the band released their seminal record Unknown Pleasures and because of it provides an interesting insight.
The footage is from a somewhat ropey pub in the suburbs of Manchester and although by then the band were a mainstay on the gig circuit, especially up North, it would still have provided them with a crowd that needed winning over. This is where the footage becomes very interesting. It’s capturing of Curtis’ incredible vocals and the band’s pure power offers a glimpse into Joy Division’s first footsteps to stardom.
[MORE] – Listen to the haunting isolated vocal of Ian Curtis on Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
Although the band had garnered attention from Tony Wilson’s Granada Reports in 1978, marking their first foray on television, this live footage evokes the sincerity of the band’s desire to be not just famous or rich, but icons of rock and roll. The way they believed they would do that was not just through media but through connection to the band’s performance. Since they happened to see the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, the live output was always integral to Joy Division.
In the footage, Curtis is a natural frontman. He commands every inch of the stage with a sullen yet enticing manner that allows him to express the emotion and the electricity of each song with aplomb. He prowls the stage, not offering eye contact to many of the crowd, and delivers his lyrical poetry while the band back him up with their now-iconic punk-noir sound.
Peter Hook’s bass refuses to back down, while Morris’ metronomic style lands every single punch it needs, as Sumner flourishes his aggressive riffs across the audience. The footage sees the band perform a couple of their most notable hits, ‘She’s Lost Control’, ‘Leaders of Men’ and ‘Shadowplay’, each played without reproach of mistake.
It’s a truly spellbinding viewing and is well worth your time. Watch the first filmed performance from Joy Division below.