Preston 28 February 1980
By: Eric G.
The liner notes defensively and adamantly assure us that this is not an attempt to cash in on Joy Division one more time; it is merely a gig. After the comprehensive boxed set, Heart And Soul, released two years ago, it’s hard to imagine what else there could be that is relevant, unheard, or necessary in Joy Division’s catalogue that hasn’t already been exploited in one form or another. The answer is Preston 28 February 1980. There has never been a ‘proper’ live Joy Division record. Still doesn’t count because it was a hodge podge of rarities, and while Heart And Soul had live tracks, nothing has ever really represented what a night at a Joy Division gig was like until now.
The set list is simple and straightforward, mixing as of then new and unfinished songs (“24 Hours”, “The Eternal”) that would form the band’s swan song, Closer, with early singles (“Transmission”) as well as tracks from Unknown Pleasures (“Wilderness”, “Disorder”). The sound is marred by faulty equipment though the playing is stellar. Ian Curtis exclaims, “everything is falling apart” at the end of a rough version of “Heart And Soul” referring to the sound system, but the dichotomy of his remark is poignant and disturbing as Curtis hanged himself seventy-nine days later. The band trudges along despite the technical difficulties with an emotional edge, and you can sense the anger and frustration in the performances.
This is the closest those of us who were either too young, not born yet, or simply not in the right place at the right time will ever get to Joy Division. A few false starts and the occasional missed note add another level of humanity to this Preston show, which the band refers to as the “worst fucking gig we ever did.” Listening to this gig start to finish, some of the legend peels away, and you realize that Joy Division was just a shit hot rock band whose lead singer meant what he sang.