‘As if Ian Curtis was in the room’: Joy Division reworked in Manchester orchestral show

By Ruth Dacey

‘It’s as if Ian Curtis was there in the room.’

Joy Division returned to their spiritual home in a ground-breaking audio visual production in Greater Manchester last night.

Live_Transmission: Joy Division Reworked was an electro-orchestral and visual interpretation of one of Manchester’s and the UK’s most influential bands.

The first of its kind production has started its autumn UK tour and played at the Salford Lyric Theatre at The Lowry last night.

The show is a unique audio-visual collaboration between electronic music pioneer Scanner, Heritage Orchestra, and visual artist Matt Watkins and has been receiving rave reviews from its recent performances.

Talking exclusively to MM, the UK Tour producer and co-founder of the orchestra Chris Wheeler explained how this sonic and visual spectacle turns the tables on the conventional concert experience. 

“The show is a unique audio-visual collaboration, and rather than classical interpretations or cover versions, Live_Transmission is a fearless dismantling of Joy Division’s visual and musical motifs,” he said.

“We want to prove to people that you can take a raw source material, in this case some of Joy Division’s best known songs and turn it into something completely original,” he said.

Joy Division originally formed in 1976 in Salford, Greater Manchester before becoming one of the most iconic bands the post-punk era spawned, something Mr Wheeler is very aware of.

“There is added pressure coming to perform in Salford as it is the birth place of this magnificent band but we have been very respectful to the music we are interpreting,” he said.

“There may be those who are sceptical about what we are doing but I believe even they will be brought around as we are not trampling over the original music or taking advantage of it, we are paying homage to it.”

Joy Division Reworked’s entire show pivots around the virtuosic ferocity of drummer Adam Betts, guitarist Matt Calvert (both from Three Trapped Tigers) and bassist John Calvert (Ghostpoet).  Mr Wheeler explained how these instruments along with the orchestra helped to capture Joy Division’s raw energy.

“Throughout our rehearsals and performances so far there has been this strange kind of energy, it’s as if Ian Curtis is there in the room,” he said.

“I would say Joy Division have a very garage D.I.Y sound that’s very raw, we are distancing ourselves from this however we use fully amplified sound that gives us the grit, power and punk energy that embodies Ian Curtis and Joy Division.”

Mr Wheeler explained how the show respects Joy Division’s legacy whilst venturing into new cross-genre artistic territory.

“We know we are taking a risk with this performance but we really are paying homage to one of the world’s most progressive bands.  Hopefully the Manchester audience will enjoy being taken on the trip into a dismantled, electrified, and orchestrated world inspired by the music of Ian Curtis,” he said.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles