Electric Ballroom, London
18th March 2010
As a teenage music fan, one of my prized possessions was a bootleg LP of Joy Division recorded on the same stage Bad Lieutenant are playing tonight, 30 years later. You think Bernard Sumner, guitarist in both bands, would mention the significance, or perhaps the memory has left him, much like the rapidly disappearing historical music venues around London, and his own introduction to an Electronic song later in the set “This is called “Tighten Up”, I’ve no fucking clue what it’s about”. The years consume us all.
Mixed feelings sums up what is basically a vehicle that is New Order without Peter Hook and with one too many guitarists on-stage. To give Bad Lieutenant their credit, Never Cry Another Tear sounds like the album New Order would’ve made had they not discovered acid house in 1988. It’s similar in texture and style to New Order’s 1986 release Brotherhood which without the scene-stealing “Bizarre Love Triangle” would have been nothing more than an edgy and occasionally delicate guitar album. Had New Order released Never Cry Another Tear back then, one wonders how it would have received.
A good portion, and indeed the best portion of Never Cry Another Tear is played. “This is Home” highlights the vocal talents of newcomer Jake Evans and is as much an introduction to Bad Lieutenant as needed. This is not a solo vehicle for Sumner, yet with a setlist laden with highlights from New Order and Joy Division’s past, Bad Lieutenant carry much the burden of its leader’s history. “Sink or Swim” and current single “Twist of Fate” are just as good as anything New Order released towards the end of their tenure, but when played side by side with “Crystal” and “Regret” (the latter receiving a warm reception), you realise what an uphill battle Bad Lieutenant have.
All points in Sumner’s back catalogue are covered, from Electronic’s “Tighten Up” to another collaborative effort in the Chemical Brother’s “Out of Control”, that neatly segues into New Order’s sublime “Temptation”, perhaps the dual highpoint in the show. Along with their own “Poisonous Intent”, it’s the ‘electronic’ half of the set that Bad Lieutenant shake things up. Some pleasant gems were held back for the encore with Sumner kneeling in front of the tele-prompter during “Bizarre Love Triangle” as if acting out the lyrics, and a version of “Ceremony” that tore shreds off the original, the stage bathed in intense white light that had all three guitarists seemingly at odds with their instruments.
Introduced as a cover of The Byrd’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is now reduced to a terrace chant. There’s probably enough of us precious types who remember the song for what it was, this dark and mysterious tune, bathed in sombre meaning. The song now is barely recognisable, with Sumner’s repeated yelps of “come on!” during the chorus as if barking at the television, while hopping up and down like he’s got a bee in his trainers. When your personal discography contains as many benchmark recordings as his, you’re perhaps allowed to do as you please. Bad Lieutenant as an entity on their own have made a convincing start, but they still have a trailing shadow to shake.