New Order delivered a night of ’80s sheen and slick nostalgia for DAVID JAMES YOUNG and a crowd of greying punters at Vivid LIVE. But what was going on with that encore? Photos by PRUDENCE UPTON for Vivid LIVE.
Let’s get one thing clear: A ticket to see New Order might be the hottest ticket in Sydney tonight (the room being packed wall to wall testifying to this), but it is by no means the coolest. There was indeed a time where the two were mutually inclusive, but that was many moons ago around the time of their critical and commercial dominance through the ’80s and into the start of the ’90s.
These days, a New Order show is largely dominated by the dags and duffers of musical consumption – the greying dads, their longtime sweethearts, all dancing with the limb-loosened reckless abandon that can only come with the joy of both a coming of age revisited and a babysitter paid in full.
By the time an overly-enthusiastic punter snakes through the middle of the front row and spearheads the motion for everyone to stand up, it’s apparent this night is for them as much as it is for the band themselves; making a welcome return after three years with a new album and an extended lease on life that many bands of their vintage are simply not given. Still, what New Order prove tonight is that they’re worthy of all continued successes – they still know how to put on a slick, cohesive live show that knows how to simultaneously tug on nostalgic heartstrings as well as rave unto the joy fantastic when the moment calls for it.
This, the third incarnation of the band, has been touring since 2011 and showcases a unique dynamic between the five of them. Naturally, the looming absense of one Peter Hook is not lost on the audience, but let the record show that Tom Chapman – at 44, the band’s spring chicken of sorts – is a worthy successor; all swooping bass riffs and stage-right energy. Gillian Gilbert, a founding member not seen since the release of 2001’s Get Ready, is also a welcome return; subtly proving herself to be the silent but deadly secret weapon within the fold thanks to her unmistakable synth and keyboard patterns ringing out with pure ’80s sheen rather than cheese.
As for Bernard Sumner, the band’s endearing leader, he proves to be a commanding presence. His commitment to newer material from last year’s Music Complete, which takes up a sizable portion of the setlist, is what gets songs like the raving ‘Plastic’ and the funky ‘People on the High Line’ across the threshold for those purely interested in reviving the past. Sumner, in this respect, proves to be a great dealer of compromise: For every new song, there’s a moment like ‘True Faith’ or ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, the latter of which turns into an unforgettable moment for a lucky couple in the front row as Sumner hands them the mic for the final chorus.
It’s telling that the sole misstep is in the show’s encore: After bringing out the big guns of the two most famous songs Sumner and drummer Stephen Morris have ever been involved with – the anthemic ‘Blue Monday’ and the Joy Division swansong ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – it’s both confusing and underwhelming to end the night on a Music Complete cut, ‘Superheated’. The audience remains standing, but it’s entirely out of convenience rather than excitement over hearing a largely-unfamiliar tune as the show’s closer.
Still, as Meatloaf so eloquently put it once upon a time, two out of three ain’t bad – especially when the aforementioned two are regarded as some of the greatest songs ever written. Hearing them sound off the walls of the concert hall is worth the price of admission alone. So, how does it feel? Pretty wonderful, actually – New Order’s legacy is safely intact. Don’t be too cool to deny them that.
Your Silent Face
People on the High Line
Bizarre Love Triangle
Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
The Perfect Kiss
Love Will Tear Us Apart