Last night was the second show of New Order’s 10-date North American tour (spanning the U.S., Canada, and Mexico). One of the most important bands of my lifetime, they played classic New Order and Joy Division songs at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, which had a stage that dwarfed the one that they played last December at their concert at Troxy in London, which I was fortunate enough to have attended. Having been front row center for both shows, it was a bit surreal for me to see them from the exact same vantage point at such different venues and in different countries – both in their own country (which, at the time, was their first date there in five years) and now here in the United States. As the band is among my all-time favorite groups, I feel a bit challenged to evaluate the night, as the band and their music means more to me than I can put into words. It was really a stellar show, and it of course leaves me wondering, in a hopeful way, about the future of this legendary band.
Who: New Order
Supporting: Run Run Run
Venue: The Greek Theatre
Presented By: Nederlander Presents
Where: Los Angeles, Calfornia
When: October 7, 2012
Seating: General Admission Pit (front row center; was the second person in line)
Opening for New Order were Los Angeles locals, Run Run Run. Many in the audience seemed familiar with them, and they did a great filling the seats of what appeared to be a sold out or near sold out 5,700 seat outdoor amphitheater.
Prior to that, never having been to the venue, and having just flown in from Las Vegas earlier in the day… I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as crowds and queuing goes. While the vast majority of the area was assigned seats, I had purchased a ticket for the small general admission pit in front of the stage. I showed up many hours before doors, and as it ended up, was only the second person there (and only by a few minutes). Me and the cool fan I waited with and chatted with got to hear the full sound check, which I think lasted for over one hour! It was like a second concert pre-show (without the visuals, obviously) – quite an unexpected bonus.
I was really impressed with the Greek Theatre and it’s very helpful and friendly staff, and they were very organized in bringing in the GA Pit ticket holders and I always appreciate that, especially when showing up very early to get the best position possible within the pit.
As it ends up, I was able to get a position on the rail in the front of the pit, dead center with Bernard Sumner’s microphone. There was a bit of deja vu with the show I attended at the Troxy in London, though in Los Angeles everything was on a much bigger scale. The stage was comparatively huge. But it was surreal (in a great way), being in the exact same spot, and now having a better idea of what I was in store for as well.
Below is am image I put together that shows a pre-show equipment “then and now” comparison that I thought was pretty cool… (click for higher resolution)
I love that, visually, the flight case in question is a bit more traveled today than it was 10 months ago. Progress.
As I explained in my review of the show last year, I have been a huge New Order fan going back to the early 80s. For those unfamiliar with the band, they were formed by the surviving members of Joy Division after the 1980 suicide of their lead singer, Ian Curtis. Bernard Sumner took over vocals, Stephen Morris and Peter (“Hooky”) Hook continued with bass an other instruments, and Gillian Gilbert joined the reformed band, which had a strong electronic pop change in direction from Joy Division’s post punk sound.
Being a British band and breaking up a few times over the years, many had never had an opportunity to see them perform live, and the last break-up, with a division between Peter Hook and the other members of the band, left most fans suspecting that they may never see the band play together again. The last time I saw them in concert prior to last year was at Shoreline Amphitheater in 1993. The show at the Troxy last year was their first gig there in five years.
That 2011 reunion began with two concerts (one in Paris, one in Brussels) to benefit their friend and filmmaker Michael Shamberg. The reunion was not without controversy, with founding member Peter Hook, no longer involved in the band, being publicly vocal about his disagreement with the new line-up. Peter Hook (who is actually my all-time favorite bass player) has been touring as well, playing a lot of Joy Division material.
With the current incarnation of New Order, it is comprised of original members Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, and Gillian Gilbert have been joined by Tom Chapman on bass guitar and Phil Cunningham as an additional guitarist. All of them, save Gilbert, are also involved in the Bad Lieutenant, a band formed following the last break up of New Order.
Of course, the obvious talk among the fans is always about the missing Peter Hook and replacement with Phil Cunningham on guitar, though as much as people regret a touring and active New Order sans Peter Hook, people do seem to come away with great respect for Cunningham and his performance on bass, which is such a fundamental and omnipresent sound in New Order and Joy Division’s songs.
With last night’s show, it was obvious that their extensive touring schedule has transformed them into a tighter group and everything came across flawlessly. There were some sound issues, but those of us in the pit weren’t sure if it was limited to us, and our proximity to the stage and positioning of the speakers, or something affecting the whole venue (and were working under the assumption it was the former). The first few songs were fairly bass heavy and Bernard Sumner’s mic was very low. As the show went on this did improve and everything was fantastic by the end.
New Order is such a unique band with such an incredible sound that it is not only enjoyable to see it all recreated on stage, but fascinating as well (which I think even they had a keen understand of, with their original music video directed by Jonathan Demme for “The Perfect Kiss”).
The band has also done an amazing job with their on stage visuals, building on what they had put together last year with more extensive and atmospheric stylized lighting and smoke that perfectly suits their music.
New Order have an incredible catalog of work – for me, each album up through Technique were absolute masterpieces (though I love what followed, I felt that their work was at its pinnacle with Technique, though individual songs on subsequent albums I still count among my favorites). And in addition, “Blue Monday”, I feel, is one of the best songs and most innovative songs released in the 80s (along with Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again”, The Smith’s “How Soon Is Now”, and U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name”). So I would personally travel far and wide just to experience New Order playing that one song live.
My dream is to someday hear them play “Fine Time”, “Round and Round”, and “Mr. Disco”. Would love it if they’d do something akin to what the Pixies did last year (with Doolittle) and Peter Gabriel is doing currently (with So), and tour one or two full albums, end to end, along with some hits.
Like I had mentioned in the opening, it’s much more challenging for me to summarize my thoughts on a band of this caliber, as for me they are an absolutely legendary band, and their music has been an important and continuous part of my life since childhood. Obviously, for me, it was an epic night.
Below is a photo of Bernard Sumner’s set list from last night’s show:
- Age of Consent
- Isolation (Joy Division)
- Love Vigilantes
- Close Range
- Your Silent Face
- Bizarre Love Triangle
- True Faith
- The Perfect Kiss
- Blue Monday
- Atmosphere (Joy Division)
- Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
New Order have been touring extensively all over the world this year, and the set list has changed a bit since the show I caught last year (with “Isolation”, “Close Range”, “Your Silent Face”, and “Atmosphere” added, and “Regret” and “Krafty” taken out). With three Joy Division songs in rotation instead of one, they have put a greater emphasis on the origin of the band with images of Ian Curtis and video images during the performance (including the words “FOREVER JOY DIVISION” across the back for “Love Will Tear Us Apart” closing out the show).
Below is a video of New Order performing “Bizarre Love Triangle”:
Below is a video of New Order performing “Blue Monday”:
Below is a video of New Order performing Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”:
Below are some photos from the New Order concert…
NOTE: CLICK ANY IMAGE BELOW FOR HIGHER RESOLUTION