When New Order returned to touring in 2011 it was a welcomed decision (of course), but how much had changed during their time away? Sure Hooky’s absence was fresh and noticeable, and Gillian’s return needed, but the hits still sounded strong, with a set list reliably stocked with dance anthems and a sprinkling of post-punk in the form of a couple of Joy Division numbers. So nothing new, but rather everything in order; ideal for festival headline spots and Olympics legend slots.
Fast-forward four years and New Order are one of the most exciting, celebrated, current acts. Arriving earlier this year, their tenth studio album is the Ibiza trips of Technique, experimental earlier work and latter day indie-rock combined; their back catalogue blended, their Music Complete. And yet with Gillian’s return and some famous friends (La Roux, Brandon Flowers and The Chemical Brothers take turns to collaborate) it’s one of the dance albums of the year. While Hooky tours the world a couple of old albums at a time, could it be that his presence would have only kept them back?
‘Singularity’ opens the set, with husband/wife duo Stephen Morris (surely one of the finest drummers of all times) and Gillian Gilbert delivering organic breaks intervened with jitters and swirls, as Bernard Sumner sings some of his strongest lyrics for some time. Of course Phil Cunningham and Top Chapman are now key figures in the line-up, so it’s no surprise when the spotlight shifts from highlighting Gillian’s return to Chapman’s presence, the low swung-bass flung with attitude. The album’s lead-single ‘Restless’ receives a rapturous applause, while La Roux’s appearance for the one-two punch of ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘People On The Highline’ sees 60-something Sumner strutting like a man with half of his years.
Music aside, these dates are a visual feast for the eyes, with old clips, new videos and Peter Saville’s iconic imagery dressing the stage, while Ian Curtis’ face appearing during ‘Atmosphere’ is naturally expected, and expectedly emotional. So with the times are the band that they no doubt casually describe this as the “the feels” moment.
Old favourites ‘5-8-6’, ‘Age Of Consent’ and ‘The Perfect Kiss’ are as equally welcomed as 2001’s ‘Crystal’ and a reworked ‘Waiting For The Sirens Call’ (already a staggering ten years old), but ‘True Faith’ and ‘Temptation’ clearly bring to life a Hacienda still open for business in each individual head. With a sell-out crowd engrossed all the way to the bar, and hardly a held smart phone in sight, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Blue Monday’ brought to a close what was to many a ceremony to mark both ends and beginnings for New Order.