Live Transmission: Joy Division Reworked

“This is a project that steps into new terrain whilst paying homage to the great punk spirited, poetic, visual and experimental band that was Joy Division.” Apt words from the mastermind behind the concept of Joy Division Reworked, Laura Ducceschi. With sound from electronic music pioneer Scanner, the, contemporary in every sense of the word, Heritage Orchestra – conducted by Jules Buckley – and Ghostpoet bassist John Calvert, and with the absorbing accompanying imagery from exploratory visual artist Matt Watkins, Live Transmission is truly an audio-visual multi-media experience; a delight for both the ears and the eyes. 

Having toured from the 21st September until the 20th October 2013 at venues around the UK, this was a must for any Joy Division fan, young and old alike. Live Transmission is the brainchild of Laura Ducceschi, live programmer and producer, who states that “the idea of Live Transmission came from fixating on the intensity and beauty of Joy Division’s [song] Atmosphere. Speculating on how big sonically and visually we could make it gave birth to the idea.” The show was subsequently commissioned and produced in 2012 by the Brighton Festival, an annual celebration of the arts.  

Rather than orchestral coverings of a selection songs, Joy Division Reworked is exactly that: an electro-orchestral reworking, reimagining, of the haunting legacy left by Ian Curtis. The performance began with a beautifully gripping reworking of Transmission, which rendered me breathless. The show then gradually toned down and slowed its pace towards the finale with plenty more breath-taking moments along the way. I did find that I wasn’t always able to distinguish and pick out different Joy Division songs, the majority of which I am familiar with. I often became immersed and rather lost in the orchestral ramblings and engaging visuals, and felt maybe the origins of the music had been a little overworked at times. However the main hooks and resonances, the gripping bass lines and snippets of moving vocals, that make the songs, were present. My only real complaint is that I could’ve quite happily sat through another hour or so. The hour and a half quite literally flew by – though I appreciate the talents involved may have objections on account of the physical exhaustion I expect they endured in the thoroughly dynamic performance.  

To conclude, there was by no means any part of the show I recall being anything other than enthralled by. Being an enthusiastic Joy Division fan I may be biased, but that is after all precisely who this show is for. Just hearing pieces of the songs I know and love in an orchestral context was enough to thrill me. Accompanied by the outstandingly complementary visuals of Matt Watkins, it made for an experience which will continue to resonate with me for, dare I say, as long as I live. A magnificently executed tribute to Ian Curtis and Joy Division. 

Charlotte Swindell. 

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