During tonight’s long awaited New Order gig at The Olympia, Getintothis’ Del Pike weighs up whether or not this could be one of his best gigs ever.
Do you know that moment when it’s a Saturday night in Liverpool and you are watching New Order play Temptation live, there’s a tear in your eye and there’s nowhere else on earth you’d rather be? No? Clearly you weren’t at The Olympia tonight then.
To say the evening was special would be rude, an understatement of epic proportions. The mood was already in place as the audience trickled in to the vast space that still manages to take your breath away on nights like this. DJ Tintin was mixing Hacienda friendly, old school house tunes with Kraftwerk and cheeky Saturday night favourites like Shannon’s Let The Music Play. The airy acoustics make every tune sound fresh and soon remove any thoughts of the freezing cold West Derby Road outside.
The buzz of anticipation in the air of waiting for true legends to appear is heightened by the appearance of Bernard Sumner on stage performing a duet with support act Jake Evans. The song is New Order-lite and is a welcome diversion from an otherwise pedestrian set. Evans‘ brand of music has many touchstones ranging from the lifting of The Stone Roses‘ Made of Stone drum patterns to shadows of The Verve in his melodies. There are even flourishes of Big Country in his fret-work which may or may not be intentional.
This Is Life opens with pure Bunnymen opening chords and Easy on my Soul sounds very much like Dodgy’s If You’re Thinking Of Me. The unavoidable comparisons distract from a tight set by a talented singer songwriter who needs to find a sound of his own. With fellow Mancunian buddies like Sumner and Doves’ Jimi Goodwin on board lending vocals on his new album, he’s at an advantage already.
By the time New Order appear the crowd are absolutely on board and the band get the Liverpool welcome they deserve, made all the more amusing following the Red’s hot-off-the-press 4-1 win at Manchester City tonight, just over an hour before.
The set opens with the sublime Singularity, arguably the standout track from the new album Music Complete, and certainly the track that recalls the 80s era that New Order fans particularly relish. “For all lost souls who can’t come home. Friends, not here, we shared our tears.” Lyrics that could easily have fallen from the Joy Division song-book, bring shivers down our spines and goose-bumps explode from our arms.
While we are still in awe of how the band can still create classics despite their ridiculously long career, Sumner sends his Tardis spinning right back to the first page of the band’s history and time stands still over the beautiful, yearning start of Ceremony. A song so steeped in baggage that it’s impossible not to become emotional. There are many of these vast time-hops tonight, but they work. Ceremony leads into the crashing opening chords of the perfect Crystal from two decades later. The promo of the miming brat band called The Killers, which inspired The actual Killers to take the name, plays in almost perfect synch with Sumner’s lips. The visuals are stunning and enhance rather than distract which is so often the case. The specially created music video for Your Silent Face by Earth Twins adds beauty to this already gorgeous track from Power, Corruption and Lies and the throbbing math graphics lend the new glam disco album tracks a powerful dimension.
The new tracks excite as much as the perennial gems and lead single Restless is as electric as any New Order single before it. Current single Tutti Frutti is a grower and shines tonight.
The new line up which sees Sumner, Morris and Gilbert joined by Phil Cunningham (Ex-Marion) and Tom Chapman are tighter than any time we have seen New Order in the past and all the kerfuffle surrounding the absence of Peter Hook is laid to rest. Iconic he may be, but Chapman’s low slung bass fills in admirably for Hooky and (sorry for this) he wasn’t really missed tonight. Even on over-familiar singles like Bizarre Love Triangle and True Faith, the gaps are seamlessly covered.
Remixes have always been part of New Order’s story and a couple of songs are given the live remix treatment here. Bizarre Love Triangle is given a hi-NRG overhaul which pulls the cities of Manchester and New York close together again; a recurring motif in their career, following Confusion-era dalliances in the Big Apple with Arthur Baker. The band have continued to use New York imagery and allusions of the city’s dance club scene in their own visuals which has cemented a stateside following. Waiting for the Siren’s Call is also given a make-over and is unrecognisable until the seafaring lyrics kick in.
The true magic tonight is saved for the end with sure-footed fan favourites, The Perfect Kiss and Temptation. Perhaps two of the most perfect British indie-pop singles ever, performed with so much passion from a band that has played them a million times over.
On previous tours, around the time of varying Joy Division renaissances, most recently on the heels of Anton Corbijn’s Control biopic, the New Order set has relied heavily on songs from the former band’s catalogue. Tonight’s main set proved that New Order have enough strong material to avoid reliance on Ian Curtis nostalgia and the main set remains a Joy Division-free zone.
Not wishing to disappoint die-hards however, the majestic pairing of Atmosphere and Love Will Tear Us Apart are saved as an encore. Corbijn’s promo for Atmosphere and Kevin Cummings’ images of Curtis alongside Peter Saville‘s cover art play on the screens and fans are allowed a moment’s prayer. Forever Joy Division hangs in the air as LWTUA sighs its final chord. As we all knew it would, Blue Monday closes the set and is as infectious and perfect as it ever was.
We can’t recall seeing a more satisfied crowd leave a venue than the audience tonight. New Order delivered a perfect set and performed immaculately. Many fans will sleep tonight knowing in their hearts that they may have just been to the best gig of their lives, and it is certainly a thought that has crossed this writer’s mind a number of times since coming home.
There is only one New Order, battered and bruised, proud and defiant, Forever New Order.
Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson.