October 29, 2012
I’ve always appreciated New Order as a groundbreaking dance-pop band and one of the most consistent hit-makers of the 1980’s, but in the last five years my love for them has increased dramatically. I now count them among my very favorite bands of all time, so having the chance to see them live (even sans one of it’s founding members, bassist Peter Hook) was an absolute thrill especially since they rarely tour the US (the last time was seven years ago). The Manchester synth-pop legends lived up to my high expectations with an extraordinary, triumphant concert in Chicago.
For a band that’s 30+ years old, the crowd was surprisingly diverse, with a fairly equal spread of twentysomethings, middle-aged folk and college-aged kids showing up to historic Aragon Ballroom to see the band work through a setlist that mixed all their big singles, classic album tracks and even some old Joy Division favorites. Running contrary to their reputation of being cool and detached, the band actually put on a very enthusiastic stage show led by singer/ guitarist Bernard Sumner who proved to be an engaging, charismatic frontman. Of course, he’s backed by heroic drummer Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert on synth and bassist Tom Chapman, who turned out to be a very capable replacement for Peter Hook.
New Order arrived the stage with possibly the coolest walk-on music ever, Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstacy of Gold” from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly soundtrack (which famously plays during the 3-way Mexcian stand-off at the climax). That led straight into the band’s own instrumental theme, the ominous “Elegia” from Low-Life and then their 2001 single “Crystal”. The music video for “Crystal” (which played on the LED wall behind the band) inspired both the The Killers‘ name and their concept for their “Somebody Told Me” video, offering a reminder of how influential New Order has been on the current music landscape.
The band worked their way back with a great rendition of 1993’s “Regret” (easily my favorite song of their post-80’s output) and then the very first New Order single “Ceremony”, which was actually a Joy Division track prior to Ian Curtis’ death (as was noted by Bernard Sumner in the song’s intro). Another early track followed, the spectacular “Age of Consent”, opening song to 1983’s Power Corruption and Lies and then “Love Vigilantes” which Sumner pointed out was not an Iron & Wine song (I think the fact the band is even aware of Iron & Wine’s cover is pretty amazing).
The middle of the set included a couple more new tracks “Here To Stay” from the 24-Hour Party People soundtrack and “Close Range” from 2001’s Get Ready along with a couple of album tracks from Power Corruption and Lies, the gorgeous, melodica-featuring “Your Silent Face” and they highly danceable “5 8 6”. The final stretch of the set though is where things really started to take off, playing through much of their brilliant 1987 singles collection Substance, starting with my personal favorite “Bizarre Love Triangle”. The track saw Bernard Sumner putting down the guitar and roaming the stage as he led a sing-a-long to the song’s infectious chorus. The momentum continued with epic performances of “True Faith”, “Perfect Kiss” and “Blue Monday”, which saw Sumner holding up his mic to Chapman’s bass as he played the song’s iconic riff. The best was saved for last though as the band went into an ecstatic performance of “Temptation”, with the “Up! Down! Turn Around!” chorus setting the crowd on an absolute dance frenzy, encouraged by a disco ball that dropped on stage for the track.
New Order are known to do encores a little differently, in their early shows they’d sometimes skip them altogether, and when they did play them they usually opted to play a rarity or cover instead of one of their hit songs. For this show, the band played three Joy Division tracks as a moving tribute to their former bandmate and friend, Ian Curtis. They began with the Closer track “Heart and Soul” (a first for the tour) and then played Joy Division’s two most iconic songs “Atmosphere” “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, both posthumously-released tracks that hinted at the beginnings of New Order’s synth-heavy, dance-pop sound. It was truly amazing thing to witness and managed to make their wonderful performance even more memorable.
Follow the jump for more New Order photos. Click here to see the full set.