New Order Brixton Academy
It seemed fitting that, as Storm Barney was worrying garden gnomes up and down the land, Bernard “Barney” Sumner and co were breezing into Brixton for the second of two nights at the Academy, promoting their first studio album in ten years (and their first album post Hook).
Music Complete is arguably New Order’s finest LP since Technique, and certainly their most dancefloor orientated. It’s a different beast to its immediate predecessors, the heavier Get Ready and the slightly more dad rock Waiting For The Siren’s Call, and (not getting drawn on the whole “they’re not the same without Peter Hook” argument) with new bassist Tom Chapman refraining from trying to ape the sound of you-know-who, it sounds better for it.
Although tonight’s show didn’t seem to be sold out, there was the longest queue I’d been part of at the venue – no doubt it was due to tightened security following events in Paris that was slowing things down (leaving the venue seemed to take much longer than usual, as well). It was also, as you’d expect, a pretty mixed crowd – plenty of younger fans in amongst the veterans.
Music Complete dominated the set list – the new look New Order were certainly looking forward, rather than dwelling on the past. As a result, a few set list favourites were missing, including that hardy perennial Regret. Kicking off with Singularity, wobbly Joy Division referencing synths and Steve Morris’ doomy drums giving way to a fierce four to the floor dance beat, New Order then headed back to where it all began with Ceremony (Gillian Gilbert strapping on the guitar once again).
One thing that noticeable about the current New Order live experience is the use of (possibly specially commissioned) film pieces as a backdrop, as well as the usual light show. That old warhorse of the noughties gigs Crystal was accompanied by snatches of the accompanying video, which those in the know will know is where The Killers got their name from, whilst those bouncy chaps from the True Faith promo made an on screen appearance during that particular song later in the set.
Of the other older songs during the first half of the night, two from New Order’s tipping point album, Power, Corruption & Lies, made an appearance – the stately, Kraftwerk influenced Your Silent Face, a mainstay of New Order gigs since I’ve been going, whilst 586 (generally known as Blue Monday backwards) returned to the fray. An unexpected inclusion was Lonesome Tonight, originally hidden away as the B-side to Thieves Like Us.
Better known as La Roux, Elly Jackson came on stage to join in on two newer numbers, Tutti Frutti and People On The High Line – the former song, with its louche, distorted spoken word segments feels like an updated take on Fine Time from Technique. The cheeky Sumner of old returned, telling the crowd that Jackson was “a proper Cockney, but we’re from the North so you all sound Cockney”.
The latter part of the set was given over to the crowd pleasers, with Bizarre Love Triangle (Sumner’s dad dancing not quite to the fore this time), the aforementioned True Faith and The Perfect Kiss, with long term band member Phil Cunningham bashing away at the drum pads. Inevitably, the evening headed towards Temptation, that bittersweet anthem of, well, temptation – segueing from the dolorous opening riff of Lou Reed’s Street Hassle, we ran full pelt into a mass singalong. Up down turnaround indeed.
The encore was a nod to the past, both of New Order and Joy Division. Atmosphere was accompanied by Anton Corbijn’s spooky 1988 video, Love Will Tear Us Apart prompted another mass singalong before Blue Monday finally reared its head – a dancefloor behemoth undimmed by the ages.
New Order balanced the old and the new tonight, and actually seemed a tighter, more disciplined unit than I remember seeing them before. Whilst some fans may have bemoaned the omission of a few old favourites, New Order are clearly focussed on the future, which in a sense they always have been. Just as long as we don’t have to wait another ten years for the next album, eh lads?
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