For the past few years, the Mancunian outfit New Order has been gradually becoming a staple of the summer touring scene. After spending the better part of this century in hiding, releasing a slew of meh tunes or squabbling internally that included the ousting of bassist Peter Hook, the band seemed to be fading into music history with a whimper.
Yet, on a balmy summer evening, the group, still sans Hooky who is still throwing barbs his former bandmates way, reminded people why they were drawn to Bernard Sumner and company in the first place. Playing their standard set of originals and Joy Division covers, the nearly two-hour show was exactly what fans would have expected.
Sumner and company were in great spirits. Maybe that's because this was the final date on a short North American run, or potentially it's because they're back together, even without their fiery bassist. When he wasn't ripping through guitar riffs, Sumner was playing the part of spirited frontman, even though he may not have looked the part. After all, when you're encouraging fans to get into the music like on hits like "Bizarre Love Triangle," "The Perfect Kiss" and "True Faith," you can't be wearing your band's latest tour shirt. Oops. Faux pas aside, few seemed to care about the singer's fashion choices once the hits rolled on.
As the forefathers of what became the alternative dance scene, a lot of people don't usually expect New Order's legacy to be dance pioneers. Over 30 years after "Blue Monday" became the biggest selling single in UK history, the over seven minute song remains as recognizable and important as it was when showed that Joy Division was a thing of the past.
The big surprise of the night came in the form of the U.S. debut of "Drop the Guitar," the band's first new song in nine years, which discounts the Lost Sirens compilation of outtakes that was released last year. With it's spacey, prog intro along with a punchy bass line mixed with a splash of the early '80s New York electronica, the song would have sounded at home on the band's earlier work. Also playing to the elements, Sumner dedicated "Californian Grass" to the crowd by quipping that he smelled a lot of California grass and that he wasn't used to that smell.
Naturally, there were a chunk of Joy Division tunes sprinkled throughout the set. The encore itself was a tribute to Ian Curtis, who in his brief time a singer, managed to create a lasting catalog of songs that resonates 34 years after he committed suicide. New Order's imagery on their gigantic big screen for "Atmosphere" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" paid tribute to the former band's legacy, yet at the same time, you couldn't help but wonder what might have been if Curtis decided to soldier on.
As one of the more improbable reunions of the last half decade continues on, motivation aside, it's nice to have one of the most important dance-punk bands of all time back, especially since they barely toured when they were at their peak. It seems like New Order has comfortably come to terms with its status as a nostalgia act, but if they can continue to cook up a batch of songs like "Drop the Guitar," that label could be shed as fast a seven minute single.
Random Notebook Dump: If LeBron and Dan Gilbert could bury the hatchet, why can't Hooky and Barney? What is it about classic English bands and excommunicated bassists anyway?
Set List Below:
Isolation (Joy Division cover)
Your Silent Face
Bizarre Love Triangle
5 8 6
The Perfect Kiss
Atmosphere (Joy Division cover)
Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division cover)