During the early days of New Order, the band didn’t have the blessing of time to organically create their identity through numerous years of creative building. They were suffocated in claustrophobic attention following the tragic demise of Joy Division, desperately attempting to shake off an unwanted tag.
From the beginning, there was pressure on New Order to show that they were their own entity and not just a Joy Division tribute act sans Ian Curtis. Their name couldn’t have made it any clearer from the off that they were seeking a fresh chapter, and their live shows offered the group the perfect opportunity to clean the slate by showing off their new personality.
When Ian Curtis died in May 1980, his Joy Division bandmates were stung by grief. However, they didn’t know anything else but music, and just two months after his passing, they made their live debut at Manchester’s Beach Club. Immediately they were the most talked about band in Britain, and the sense of intrigue was palpable. Less than a year after their first performance, New Order headlined the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury – but it took them a while to shake off their attachment to Joy Division and get the respect they deserved in their own right.
Their debut album, Movement, proved that New Order were worthy of standing on their own two feet as they lunged at full speed out of the shadows. It would have been easier for them to replicate Joy Division; however, they bravely forged a whole new sound all over again. No track is a better signifier of their evolution than the joyous, serotonin inducing ‘Temptation’, a number that couldn’t sit further away from Joy Division’s sonic landscape with Peter Hook’s blistering bassline the only commonality. It carved out the archetypal New Order sound, and they’ve never played any other song in their repertoire live on more occasions. No matter where they are in the world, it always goes down a treat no matter what city they find themselves in.
“‘Temptation’ is a song that showcases every element of New Order as a band,” Peter Hook once remarked. He added: “That’s another one that always goes down a storm when played live.”
Meanwhile, Bernard Sumner once revealed to Mojo it’s his favourite New Order song. He commented: “It’s got a spirituality to it. It’s really uplifting without actually getting a specific message across. It was interesting to see that you could do that while, at the time, being fairly abstract. I struggled with the literalness of my lyrics in the early days. I didn’t want to expose my inner feelings to the general public”.
As it was the one track that fans principally wanted to see during their early performances, New Order saved it until last in their set and occasionally decided to have some fun at the expense of their audience. During concerts, New Order can play ‘Temptation‘ for up to ten minutes, and it’s always a moment to remember. However, during their early shows, often they’d abruptly walk offstage towards the end of the number, while a sequencer and drum machine played out the rest of the track while the crowd stood there bemused at the empty stage.
This trick left the audience pining for more and helped those early New Order gigs become notorious. In 1981, the technology they were using was already ahead of its time, and this move was unprecedented. It ended the concerts under a cloud of mystery, an emotion which New Order desired to accomplish. The stunt got people talking about the present rather than staying glued to yesterday, and New Order became the name on everybody’s lips rather than Joy Division.