On May 2nd, 1980, Joy Division played what would later be known as their last gig ever when they appeared at Birmingham University, England.
The reason for this was that Joy Division had their three UK gigs immediately following this concert canceled before they were to embark on their first US tour on May 21st—which, as history would sadly show, was never to be.
Regarding the flyer, Neil Woodvine explains:
“Due to an error all the posters had the wrong date – 22nd May and, invariably, the first ‘2’ was inked out to show the correct date”
The bill was shared with Factory Records label maters A Certain Ratio who opened the show that night.
The concert was recorded via the soundboard, with the audio later released on the Still double LP that included all eleven songs from Joy Division’s set, despite “Twenty Four Hours” not being credited on the sleeve
Joy Division debuted “Ceremony” during this concert, which is not even titled on the handwritten setlist, but instead just credited as “new song”.
The only other versions of Ceremony that Ian Curtis recorded are from the soundcheck on May 2nd and from a studio session on May 14th, 1980, four days before Curtis’ suicide.
The later version is found on the Heart and Soul boxset.
“Ceremony” was the band’s last recording. When New Order recorded their version of the song, with guitarist Bernard Sumner taking over lead vocals, there was a difficulty with the lyrics, because Curtis had never transcribed them and his vocals were partially inaudible, resulting in Sumner reportedly had to put them through a graphic equalizer to approximate them.
During the performance of “Decades!” Ian stumbled and had to be helped off stage while the rest of the band played on. He recovered enough to return for an encore performance of “Digital”.
Dave Haslam remembers:
“It was a dining room at a student hall of residence. 300 people there I reckon. I was ten rows from the front. It was a ramshackle affair, Ian left the stage at least once”.
Here is a recounting of the concert originally posted to Joydiv.org courtesy of David Pryke was there:
I went as an 18-year-old student from the nearby Aston University. Joy Division were known as the coolest band on the circuit but I was only familiar (so I thought) with the single Transmission.
A few memories – they were very very late! We hung around for a long time listening to ACR sound check. A mixed audience of students, punks, and rockers (think they call the latter metalers nowadays).
Remember ACR doing a cracking set (I think at the time I enjoyed this more, but it paled rather following the news later in the month). Someone had recorded me a few avant guard numbers the summer before but had not put down the play list. I’d sussed out Crass, Tubeway Army, Magazine and the Shadows! But he’d said there were a couple of special tracks at the end that I hadn’t a clue who performed them. I was pretty impressed and played them to mates at the time who were equally impressed.
It wasn’t until I heard the first few chords of “Shadowplay” at High Hall that I realised who the mystery group were. The other track also played on the night and one of my faves was “New Dawn Fades” – Moby played this at a recent gig at Brixton Academy as homage to Ian Curtis – I was the only member of the (generally young) audience who appreciated it.
The other memory is slam dancing during the faster numbers. Not very cool!
We also thank Lou Baeza who purchased the photos that were part of Peter Hook’s Signature
Collection auction at Omega Auctions, for which the image at the top we have included.
For more info and pictures from this concert, see Joy Division Central
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