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Saturday 22 September 1979 concert review

Magazine: New Musical Express (UK)

Publication date: Saturday 29 September 1979

Reviewer: Adrian Thrills



The news is out. The hot poop of a new 'new pop' hitpack is in our midst in the shape of Manchester's latest contribution to the great British pop renaissance
Ladies and gentlemen... The Distractions!
In the wake of an excellent second single on Factory in Time Goes By So Slow, my expectations for this, the fivesome's London debut, were high
I didn't go away disappointed
Onstage, The Distractions are a surprisingly different kettle of kinetic excitement to their mighty single. A fair slice of the stylish subtlety and elegance they muster in the studio is lost in the confines of a live set. In its place is a rough abrasion and an occasionally wacky exuberance that recalls nothing so much as the infectious joie de vivre of The Mekons
Their rapport with the crowd could best be described as 'chummy'
Guitarist Steve Perrin spends most of his time between-songs making dedications to various members of the audience, including your reviewer. In the centre of the stage, vocalist Mike Finney cuts an unlikely figure. A sort of suave Billy Bunter type character in a dinner jacket. "Yeah, it looks very smart," he quips at one stage, "until you notice all the beer stains!"
The set started badly with Finney's guttural, nasal voice coming across with none of the force of the record; but it grew momentum with every song
With initial nerves giving way to an obvious relish of actually being on stage, the group reached a peak on the yearning 'Time goes by' and the closing 'Valerie: I love valerie, but valerie's in love with you'
The only real black spot of the evening came with the encore, an unamusing murder of Betty Wright's Shoorah shoorah that was hardly worthy of The Dickies
Nevertheless, it provided a good balance for what followed: the disorientating hard rock of Joy Division
Compared to Joy Division, most other bands working in supposedly left field areas are like light entertainers on the Saturday Night Special
Never a group to conform to expectations, they opened with the new
Atmosphere, an Eno-esque dirge of awesome proportions with guitarist Bernard Albrecht on organ and vocalist Ian Curtis in the unaccustomed role of guitarist
From there on, it was the usual set, split equally between standards from the
Unknown Pleasures album and a welter of typically graphic new songs
Like Gang Of Four and the Banshees, each instrument retains a crisp, distinctive identity: the overloaded, distorted Rickenbacker bass of
Peter Hook; Albrecht's incisive guitar figures; the primal, syndrum-embellished thwack of Steve Morris; and the gruff intensity of Curtis's vocal
Fellow Mancunians
Buzzcocks are a brave band indeed to take Joy Division on their forthcoming UK tour as main support. I can think of very few groups who are capable of following them