Taking to the stage to the strains of ‘The Prisoner’ theme, and shouting: “We’re New Order and hopefully you’re gonna get into the spirit of things” is a statement of intent. Bernard Sumner, and all of the (male) members of the band sport jackets from the cult 60s TV series for which Portmeirion is famous, and it’s clear that New Order themselves are ready to embrace the spirit of Festival No. 6.
It’s the inaugural weekend for Wales’ coastal music and arts shindig, and looking at the magically eccentric and beautiful setting of Portmeirion, you wonder what took them so long to come up with such a perfect place for a festival. Sumner thinks so too, despite the drizzly Sunday weather: “Festival No.6 seems pretty cool apart from the pissing rain which followed us all the way from Manchester” he apologises. “But you don’t care about the rain because you’re in a tent”, joking: “I ordered it.”
It’s a shame he couldn’t also order the perfect sound mix, because it’s clear that kicking off with ‘Crystal’, the sound is anything but crystal-clear. Bass-heavy, Sumner’s vocals waver between piercing yelps and completely inaudible.
Whipping through ‘Regret’ and ‘Ceremony’, Sumner introduces the first of tonight’s Joy Division numbers, ‘Isolation’ by saying: “This song is about the mundanity of everyday life, even if you’re a journalist”. Realising he’s introduced the wrong song, he repeats the same mantra before the beginning of ‘Krafty’.
It’s not until the heavier, four-to the-floor beats of ‘Here to Stay’ kick in that it’s clear the earlier sound issues are behind them, and with ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, the Festival No. 6 crowd really get going and the band shift up a gear with ‘586’. It’s a song which could have been written to order for this event, with its ‘666’ refrain and flashing red 6 visuals on the video screens behind.
With the crowd well and truly up for it, the set moves into its climax, with ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and ‘True Faith’ leading towards a song which Sumner introduces as one “people know all around the world,” adding: “I’ve even heard it in Jamaica.”
A song so transcribed in folklore, famously the biggest-selling independent 12” single of all time (but actually managing to lose the band money), ‘Blue Monday’ is so familiar, so iconic, and yet still has the ability, like all classic records, of sounding fresh with every listen.
After the joyous ‘Temptation’, The Prisoner’s giant white ball appears on the video screens, and hundred of smaller balls are released amidst a cloud of dry ice. It’s left to the encore of two Joy Division songs, ‘Transmission’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ to round off the set.
Iconic, tragic, bittersweet, anthemic, there’s no arguing that watching New Order performing their most famous, Joy Division song whilst images of Ian Curtis and ‘Joy Division Forever’ flash behind them is not only poignant and melancholic, but also full of hope. Fusing this sense of pasts lived and futures to behold, we can’t think of a more perfect band to finish off this new festival in its very unique, nostalgia-heavy setting.