When New Order performed their only US concert of 2015 at the Day for Night Festival, we were front and center, glued to the pulsating visual graphics that accompanied the iconic band and sound. The glowing orbs and digital horizons had us spellbound in an uplifted melancholy. Call it a reverence for nostalgia but the emo music was charged and the images led the audience through a montage of memories.
From cinematic interludes to sparse shapes, the visuals informed the songs and the songs informed the visuals. The concert, supporting their tenth album, Music Complete, became a journey through time and a peek into the future. Many of us zoomed back in time with a montage of memories as teens listening to New Order while others reveled in the signature sound that molded an angsty subculture. The result was a masterful display of the many peaks and valleys of the New Order sound through abstractions.
That artwork presented on stage is a collection of motion graphics created by Damian Hale. The London-based motion graphic artist has won awards for his work developing stage art for musical tours for the likes Sigur Ros and Jay-Z. Yet nothing prepared him for the pressure he felt in working on the New Order visuals. “I grew up listening to them so it was a slightly terrifying job. Getting to work on some of the songs you dreamt of working on all your life.”
Hale spent months listening to New Order to get into the creative zone. He says, “They are one of those bands that have a very clear aesthetic. There seems to be a New Order flavor to everything they’ve ever done visually and musically. I was trying to delve into that.”
He made mood boards that felt New Order-y and sent it over to the band to review. The boards were full of Modernist designs, vintage but futuristic early graphic design concepts. He says they full of “very clean lines and primary colors and lots of grays but also photography with detachment like landscapes and objects…Things like a painting of a bowl of flowers.”
The most challenging part of the project was interpreting the New Order aesthetic. The visuals are diverse from candy-colored Greek gods to the gritty electronic lines found in Bizarre Love Triangle. “The Perfect Kiss piece with flashing squares and scenes of New York had slightly detached photography of urban landscapes with flashing lines with bold colors. That’s what feels New Order,” says Hale. There’s an edge of darkness that still resonates as dancey. Hale’s version of Tutti Frutti was inspired by 90s Italian house music and is full of electric colors.
This was the first time that the band had a fully-choreographed show with a visual arc for not only for each song, but for the entire set list too. Hale sketched ideas for each of the songs as animations made in Aftereffects in 30-second chunks at a time. And the band timed the set to further drive of the effects of graphics with the musical chords.
“Some of these things might seem cliché because so much stuff has been influenced by this band. If anyone deserves the design that suites it it’s the ones who did it first. Bizarre Love Triangle is an era-defining song.”
Hale and his counterparts are creating a visual language for these large live shows more experimental than TV or designing magazines. Live shows give an immediate gratification. He says it’s more emotional and, as a designer, more addictive. He hopes his visuals will stay with the crowd when they remember the music and memory of the concert.
New Order just announced US tour dates for 2016; to learn more click here.
To learn more about the artist click here.