To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for New Order. It’s 26 years since Manchester’s gloomiest played a non-festival or support show in Ireland and much has changed in the interim.
Bernard Sumner, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris have parted ways – amid some acrimony – with their outspoken, bass-playing fourth wheel, Peter Hook. But the group have also made peace with the tragic end of their previous incarnation of Joy Division.
That chapter of their career came to a unspeakably premature conclusion with the May 1980 suicide of singer Ian Curtis. Understandably New Order for decades preferred to push on rather than stand back and reflect.
Time has brought closure, though. Joy Division’s debut album, Unknown Pleasures, recently turned 40. In Dublin, Sumner and company were at pains to acknowledge the anniversary during a performance super-charged with emotion.
Against the top of the toffs backdrop of Trinity College, they plunged into a rocking version of Unknown Pleasure standout Shadowplay. And they brought a chill to the balmy Sunday evening with She’s Lost Control, a blunt-force dirge in part inspired by Curtis’s epilepsy.
New Order’s own glittering hit parade was celebrated too. The band’s return to form (ish) 2015 album Music Complete had its interlude in the sun with synth zingers Tutti Frutti and Plastic.
There was nostalgia by the bucketful as well. Accompanied by Gilbert’s mournful synths Sumner crooned his way through the Kraftwerk-esque dour ballad Your Silent Face. And guitarist Phil Cunningham – the “newcomer” who joined the ranks from Marion in 2001 – stood in for Peter Hook manning the drum pads on electro epic the Perfect Kiss.
Darkness had descended as they closed in on the encore with the protean thump of Blue Monday. And then, in a further acknowledgement of Joy Division, New Order reached for a stark and majestic Decades and a lump-in throat Love Will Tear Us Apart.
With its horizon-filling guitars, the former offered a glimpse of the U2-esque force Joy Division might have become had Curtis lived. The latter, meanwhile, is one of the saddest love songs ever written and Sumner’s yelping delivery didn’t entirely do it justice.
Where Curtis may as well have been crooning in a mausoleum, Sumner sounded as if he was barking along in a Majorcan nightclub. And yet, the moment tugged remorselessly at the heartstrings. New Order were back. Briefly and very movingly, so too were Joy Division.