Listening to Joy Division is rarely a relaxing experience. The lyrics of their most famous single, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ are not exactly soothing:
Do you cry out in your sleep?
All my failings exposed
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Looking back now, they seem to point pretty explicitly to Curtis’ early death in 1980, aged just 23. But, Joy Division’s lyrics were obviously part and parcel of a wider feeling of post-punk melancholia in the 70s and it was this atmosphere that was both conjured up and converted in Joy Division_Reworked. The production itself is a collaboration between British sound artist, Scanner, the Heritage Orchestra and visual designer, Matt Watkins. This bias towards the music is no doubt in keeping with their focus for the evening – and it was absolutely wonderful. The sound was rich from start to finish, and Heritage Orchestra played with the utmost respect for their pieces, perfectly re-creating the unsettling atmosphere for which Joy Division is known. Adam Betts (drummer) was particularly impressive as a unique force on stage, separate to the sound quality of the orchestra, providing the tension that underpins some of the band’s best work.
Most effective, however, was actually a low-tempo, lyrical rendering of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Here the objective of not only a re-creation, but a re-imagining of Joy Division was at its most defined. They didn’t just mirror the sounds of crisis and melancholia with which we are already familiar, but completely transformed the song. It was played solemnly, almost as though they were at a funeral – and once they’d finished, rather than bowing, they stood rather stiffly, seemingly paying their respects (incidentally, the words ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ are etched on Curtis’ tombstone). Watkins’ beautiful flowers were a perfect backdrop and, as the finale piece, it was met with rapturous applause.
These images from Watkins and many others worked exceptionally well. The projection of insects during ‘These Days’ looked almost if they were flying backwards during its urgent troubled passages. Occasionally, however, the projected visualizer did resemble one programmed by iTunes, and sometimes did not really shift with the changes in pace or mood of the music driven by the orchestra. That said, the images definitely added to the spectacle of the event and made it a Joy Division experience more than fit for a modern audience.
LIive_Transmission: Joy Division Reworked has just finished a UK tour, with more information about the project and its corollaries available here.
PHOTOS/ June Warsaw and Wikipedia Commons