Who would have thought it? That when New Order emerged from the tragic ashes of Joy Division almost forty years ago, that they would be the perfect soundtrack to a Friday night out in North London?
Joy Division loomed larger than I recall at recent New Order gigs. We got four songs, three of which arrived back to back in the sole encore. Using Kevin Cummins iconic photographs and Anton Corbijn’s video for Atmosphere, Ian Curtis was a recurring touchstone. Disorder was bracing and angular and the “Here Are The Young Men” refrain of Decades emphasised the passage of time. The images of Curtis and his colleagues on the Epping Walk Bridge, bleak, snowy with collars turned up are literally from another century.
We can put to rest Peter Hook’s absence. Eleven years on, Hook has established the Light project and has been recently in the news for starting to sell off some of his collection of memorabilia, donating some of the profits to epilepsy charities.
In the meantime, New Order released the welcome and acclaimed Music Complete. Whilst arguably a little longer than it needed to be, the presence of four songs from the album in the setlist showed that this wasn’t an established band content to ditch the last LP as soon as the promotional cycle was complete. All the Music Complete tracks sounded alive, closer in some respects to Bernard Sumner’s interim Electronic project. It emphasised how Bernard makes a limited vocal range go a very long way. He knows which melodies serve him best and sticks with them – playing to your strengths.
The show was well-honed, fantastic visuals and light show complementing the music. It was a masterclass in staying relevant. DJ TinTin had the crowd warmed up with 808 State and Donna Summer and the sense of a party atmosphere was maintained with the like of Bizarre Love Triangle, True Faith and Temptation, the latter having the Palace rocking. The Power Corruption and Lies era was covered with Ultraviolence and Your Silent Face, the band on the cusp from the darker earlier material to the blissed-out electronica to come. Of course, the 1989 Technique album was recorded in Ibiza amidst debauchery and hardcore partying. Vanishing Point took us back to the period and closed the good times circle back to the present day.
The split with Hooky is sad and regrettable. The root of it appears to be Hook’s continued appetite and financial imperative to tour regularly versus the remaining band’s desire to record and hit the road less frequently.
A balance of sorts seems to have been struck. You pay your money, you make your choice.