Joy Division concert

5th March 1980: Trinity Hall, Bristol

Supported by The Passage.

Poster image thanks to Bob Gardner

Paul Thompson was there: "It wasn't a very big crowd really, maybe a hundred. Joy Division were very loud and not really what I was expecting. The only songs I recognised at the time were 24 Hours, Colony and Love Will Tear Us Apart, though I have since come to know the names of the others they played.

They definitely opened with the instrumental one Incubation, and I think A Means To An End was next. I remember being astounded at the intensity of the performance from Ian Curtis, he put everything into the "I put my trust in you" line, which is what stood out for me. Then they did 24 Hours and Colony, and followed it with a slow one that I think might have been Passover. It wasn't very good, and was riddled with squalls of feedback towards the end when Ian Curtis picked up his coffin guitar. Bernard played keyboards on what I guess was Heart and Soul (though I don't really remember anything of note in this song, it may have been something else).

I recognised Love Will Tear Us Apart as the next song, and they followed this straight away by a very brisk synth wash that was probably Isolation. After this they did one more, a fast punky one that Ian got very animated in. I think it may have been Ice Age, the chorus was familiar when I first heard Still.

Then they were gone, there was no encore and no real call for one to be fair. I didn't really know what to expect, this was quite disappointing though as I'd heard the first album and they didn't play anything from it, nor the singles. If it hadn't been for the John Peel session I wouldn't have known any of the material at the time, which always leaves you feeling a bit negative about a band".


Tim Brook was there and tells us Ian Curtis had his eyes closed for most of the performance.

Mike Schieffer was there: "This was the only time I got to see JD and me and a friend travelled down from Cardiff. They definitely did open with Incubation with Ian on guitar but I'm certain that Shadowplay followed this and that they went on to also play Insight and She's lost control from Unknown Pleasures. It was a very short, (nine song?) set which I remember being curtailed by Ian being helped from the stage by a roadie after having seemingly worked himself into a fit during the last song. I thought they were brilliant that night and my memory is of the audience simply standing there in stunned silence for a good five minutes after they'd gone off. On the way out, I took a hand-done A3 sized poster for the gig from the wall, tragically I lost this at some point since".

Right: Bristol Colston Hall photographed in 2002. (C) Copyright Joy Division - The Eternal web site (Michel Enkiri) and reproduced here with permission 

Photographs (C) Copyright Andrew Davis and exclusively reproduced here with his permission
Click any photo to see the entire set from this gig - and for the opportunity to buy them

We exchanged a few emails with Dick Witts of support band The Passage in the summer of 2007 and he gave us his informal recollections of the gig - the appropriate bits of the emails are reproduced below:

Dick Witts: We played at least three gigs with Joy Division - at the Electric Circus, Roger Eagle's club at Liverpool (actually, they supported us, oddly) and the Trinity Arts Centre at Bristol (when Ian collapsed). I don't have dates for any of those - or others - only memories.

Joy Div Central: ... the Bristol trinity gig. When Andrew provided his photos for the web site I pointed out that Ian had his eyes shut in all the photos. It seemed like a bit of unlucky shutter timing until our mate Tim Brook, who was also at the gig, said he remembered distinctly that Ian had his eyes closed throughout the performance. Now you mention Ian collapsing. I'm guessing that's why there was no encore .... did Ian struggle through the set and then leave the stage and collapse at the end of the performance?

Dick Witts: At Bristol the hall manager, a middle-aged Black guy, came on stage and closed the gig. Barney ran on stage and tried to hit him and take the mic off him, and I think Pete physically held back Barney. It was clear to me that the band had no strategy to deal with this kind of thing, so it was probably at the start of the end of Ian's problems. Before this they were full of fun, putting a bucket of water over the door; it fell on Rob. My memory was that it took place during the gig, not at the end, but you may be right that it was before an encore, as I think the audience had already received a substantial set.


Photo courtesy In Your Face Photo


Tracey Holloway was there: "All I can remember is that the gig ended suddenly, and I'm sure I saw
him being helped off the stage. I was near the front for this gig. I remember it seemed really chaotic but can't really remember anything else".


Stephen was there: " I remember it clearly. I have a poster for it somewhere. They definitely played a very short set. Ian was very intense throughout, very distant and trance-like, esp when playing the guitar in a frenetic way and dancing - in his way - at extraordinary speed. He definitely collapsed quite dramatically and was helped off, and I'm pretty certain it was mid-song. I remember being really pissed off that I'd gone all that way and they'd barely played for 35 minutes maybe 40 - obviously, I didn't know then about his illness. I just thought he was exhausted, fainted from the heat or something. They definitely started with Incubation. They also played Isolation badly out of tune and at least one other synth song with Ian on guitar.

When he died, the shock was great because no-one I'd ever met/seen before had died, but the surprise was also sort of minimal having seen a) him collapse and b) give the clear appearace that he was burning himself out from the inside. I half expected to read about the collapse in the papers after, but Joy Division were much smaller and less famous then than anyone seems to realise these days - and there wasn't a huge crowd, and nobody much cared. The Passage were really good that night.


Robin Emanuel was there: "Just to tell you, I was at the Trinity Hall gig and Ian Curtis did collapse on stage, Peter Hook saw him going and caught him, helped by a roadie. Half and hour later - with the whole audience waiting to see if they would come back - we were told he was still out cold. They played for about 30 minutes, I didn't know their music at that stage but I remember Curtis playing guitar, and one song had disco-style 'syn drums.' Curtis dis his dancing but I have to say i was more interested in Barney who I thought was coolest and afterwards I got a V-necked sweater similar to his from a charity shop! There weren't many people there and it was far from full.