New Order curating a day of live music at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics probably raises a few eyebrows. It's not the first venue that springs to mind, but it does sound like a viable place for a day of music to be held. This is, after all, the fifth instalment of Transmission under the shadow of the Lovell Telescope, following The Flaming Lips and Elbow. The line up has been handpicked by New Order and I wouldn't say there are any real surprises at the names or the quality on show either.
Hot Vestry are a young band from Macclesfield who have previously supported New Order at the Manchester Apollo. With three EP releases under their belts and various dates played in and around the Manchester area, they are indie pop as you would expect it. With haunting synth leads and a bass player and lead guitarist who, after three songs, are more than happy to swap instruments, they are a good opening for a crowd mainly consisting of blankets and picnics, with a thin line of young-uns leaning over the barrier. A quick thank you to the crowd, who are munching their way through cucumber sandwiches and chicken legs, and we're back to jangly guitar riffs and pulsing bass lines. This is not a group too dissimilar to a previous incarnation of today's headline act. They even have a keyboard player who is starting to look more and more familiar as their set goes on. Their set mainly consists of a journey through their music influences written into their own material in a set worth a listen. It's easy to be in awe of their surroundings though with "Wonder how many channels you can get on that satellite?" being a worthy sound bite.
Jake Evans has launched his solo career, away from Bad Lieutenant, with a set of tracks any Mancunian axe grinder would be happy with. The chicken legs have now been digested and the crowd has turned to foot tapping their way through an energetic set. Jake builds on his work in Bad Lieutenant and resists the temptation to do any material from 'Don't Cry Another Tear' which is commendable. Jake is definitely winning the tennis vs music final by the time he gets to his last song of the day. Energetic driven indie rock with a voice to match which ends with stand out finisher 'Easy on my soul' with it's jangly guitars, drawn out lyrics and thunderous drum track.
The Whip command a bigger audience, as everyone is pleased to see the tennis has finally finished and we can get on with the show. The Whip are a noisy three piece who play hard rock/dance fusion at an incredible pace, which brings out not just the toe tappers, but the belly dancers as well. A fantastic live drummer who doesn't drop a beat and keeps the driving rhythm of tracks such as 'Keep or Delete' with it's driving bass and I think a party may have finally broken out.
Public Service Broadcasting are probably the least visual stimulating duo I've come across. Even the tweed jacket, bow tie and old TV can't hide that. A drummer and a ..... well, everything else, is all there is to look at. Played to a backdrop of public service propaganda show reels, their set is perfect for the surroundings. A very early radio transmission sound mashed with live drums and a strange blend of recorded sound bites and sampled vocal lines. Even their logo is a satellite dish, they are perfect. A lot of the crowd have returned to the blankets, maybe in need of an afternoon nap, however, their brand of mashed vocal and sampled lines are not exactly the snoozing kind. They may lack the vigour and drive of the previous act; however, their music is polished and well produced with the occasional burst of a rock guitar.
By the time Johnny Marr takes to the stage, the crowd are ready for him. The opening bars of "Stop me..." are met with thunderous roars of excitement. However, Johnny is not just here to play Smiths favourites. Material from his solo album goes down just as well with trademark guitar riffs, the odd bit of pogoing and staring directly at members of the crowd. "Thank you Manchester, I mean Macclesfield". At one point, he even tries to break the Mancunian stereotype by declaring all men should go around calling each other Darling. I think that will keep for another day!
Hid in the middle of the set is "Bigmouth Strikes Again" which keeps the crowd pumping and the decibels up. Johnny includes one Electronic hit in his repertoire, which is their debut "Getting Away With It". Of course, what with this being a glorious sunshiny day, Bernard Sumner is only too happy to take up vocal duties for this one. It's also a drawn out longer version with enough space for manic guitar solos that weren't present in the original and makes for a crowd pleasing collaboration which I think everyone was hoping for. Of course, the only way to top that is to play the legendary "How soon is now" followed by "There is a Light". Johnny Marr leaves the stage, much as he entered it, with his 'God like' status firmly intact.
New Order are regenerated by the reappearance of Gillian Gilbert on synth duties. She has finished off her stint as roadie for Hot Vestry and will have the teenagers firmly tucked up in bed by now. Tom Chapman has taken over bass duties and is worthy of his position. They play a set that is not altogether unpredictable, adding "I'll Stay With You" from Lost Sirens and declaring that as the nearest they have to new material, stopping only to point out that "new material will be available next year ... sometime". There are reworkings as well. "Blue Monday" gets an update as does "586" from their second album, bringing it right up to date and the crowd are now dancing like your aunt and uncle at a wedding.
New Order have never been the most modest group and Bernard does declare "To get you fired up, we've got a few more songs and they're pretty good ones". He's absolutely correct. By now, the sun has started to fade and the Lovell Telescope has finished it's duties for the day and is now facing the crowd. One of the most spectacular parts of the Transmission series has been the presence of the telescope as a display for various lighting effects. Today we see the moon and various projections, along with it's transformation into a giant disco ball, all appreciated by the crowd of thousands.
Much the same as Johnny Marr would never be able to shake off his days in The Smiths, New Order present themselves as a beacon to Ian Curtis. Tonight is no different as "Ceremony" is described as "a song we wrote as Joy Division, before our singer inconveniently died". The encore is, predictably all about Joy Division, with the finale being the haunting "Atmosphere" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
This was a concert of friends and self indulgence, but one that was delivered wholeheartedly by New Order. As Bernard Sumner ended - "Thank you Jodrell Bank, it's a stately institution, just like us."
Review and photos by Philip Howe