New Order Live In New York ’81

A snapshot of how the remaining members of Joy Division came into their own after the death of Ian Curtis.

There are several bands that have kept alive the memory of previous members. New Order memorialised Ian Curtis’ spirit after Joy Division captured the hearts and minds of generations to come. At the time of releasing their first album Movement, the world saw a band reinventing itself, creating a distinctive new sound that also appealed to pre-existing fans.

On November 18th, 1981, New Order played at The Ukrainian National Home in New York City’s East Village. The concert kicked off with “Chosen Time”, a track which formed a missing link between the melancholia of Joy Division and the pulsing bass lines which would go on to define New Order. However, it had taken a while for the band to find their confidence. One of the biggest losses was the distinctiveness of Ian Curtis’ voice. Instead, it was guitarist Bernard Sumner who now took over the part of the vocalist and frontman.

The night’s setlist was created partially from their debut record which was only released a few days prior, but also included songs like “Ceremony”, “Procession” or “Everything’s Gone Green”. While it’s clear that fans were still adjusting to their new material, the gig saw a pivotal point in the band’s career. What is particularly exciting to watch is how Sumner gradually proves his staying power with the help of new, distinctive intros and rhythm sections. Perhaps it was this which encouraged Joy Division fans to take them seriously, even amongst the turbulence of picking up where they had left off.

“Yeah, they used to be Joy Division, but what’s this shit they’re playing now?”

Drummer Stephen Morris remembers how difficult the touring period was. In an interview, he recalled that there was a lot of “yeah, they used to be Joy Division, but what’s this shit they’re playing now?”. In this light, watching the band coax cheers out of the audience becomes even more moving.

The gig also came at an interesting time for New Order. It happened on a leg of touring in which they traveled, within the space of under a month, from California to Canada and back to New York. They played both conventional and unconventional venues. All in all, it was a time of intense development for all the members and the band as a cohesive whole, with this show providing a snapshot of how they managed to find their feet. Fans were still unsure what to make of New Order. Yet, it’s inspiring to see their development in winning people over at such a crucial stage. Without a doubt, this was an uncertain time. Yet, in a truly DIY fashion, they began to forge new paths Ian Curtis would have been proud of.


1.Chosen Time
2.Dreams Never End
3.Everything’s Gone Green

Featured Image by Thesupermat

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