The British people had a lot on their minds in 1982, as the country divided on a war overseas and a class war at home. Britain flexed its imperial muscle and won the Falklands War. Margaret Thatcher won a general election off the back of it; Labour were in turmoil and ditched Michael Foot for another lame duck – Neil Kinnock. Oh, and on a cold January evening in 1983 I went to see New Order in concert at the Students Union Hall in Cardiff.
I was a student at the Poly of Wales, up the Taff Valley in Pontypridd. It was a 30 minute train ride to Cardiff, to see passing bands on UK tours…and always with one eye on the time so as not to miss the last train back. The Miners Strike was in full swing, and I spent some time (when not in lectures) driving minibuses of supplies collected from well-wishers up the valley to the picket lines. It was real in-yer-face full-on social conflict in those places affected, like the Welsh Vallies.
It must have been a cold evening – Saturday 29th January – wrapped in my Bunnymen crombie coat with scarf, black drainpipes and mop of red bushy hair, I went with my mates to the gig. I had a notebook and pen, as I would report it for the student’s magazine, ‘Leek’.
I was a bit of a pseudy NME reader, hence my flowery language. This is what I wrote back then:
“ ‘The most superior, cleansing, active and informative music recorded recently’. Yes, NME writer Paul Morley does like New Order, but a great many more people have recently been opening their ears to their particular brand of techno-rock music.
“New Order rose phoenix-like from the ashes of Joy Division, following the suicide of Ian Curtis, and continue their work of re-defining the shape of contemporary rock music…opening with a compelling version of ‘In a Lonely Place’, they then played four new numbers [‘Blue Monday’ was showcased for the first time] before moving to more familiar ground. ‘Everything’s Gone Green’, ‘Dreams Never End’, and ‘Procession’ led up to an agonising climax…will they or won’t they? Yes they did! Returning on stage to the expectant roar of the audience they delivered an inch-perfect version of ‘Temptation’. The progressive population of Cardiff went home happy. A night to remember – a memory to savour.”
A moment in time, all the more memorable for that fact that ‘Blue Monday’ was a relatively unknown new number, and ‘Temptation’ was the big hit of their early set that fans wanted to hear. There’s been a lot written about how crap they were live in those early days, drunk and incompetent, but it sounded alright to me, and there’s still nothing like seeing your heroes on stage belting out the songs you buy and sing along to. Ian Curtis paid homage to with ‘In a Lonely Place’, before moving onto more upbeat newer stuff like ‘Blue Monday’ that was to cement their new image in the minds of their followers, the shift from rock to electro-pop, the affirmation of the New Order.