New Order, on their own small scale, are long-lived testimony to keeping on in the face of tragedy. Later in the evening, the screen behind them will show images of Ian Curtis as his old bandmates start their encore with a moving ‘Atmosphere’ (“I’d like to dedicate this song – in fact the whole set – to the victims of the appalling, senseless violence,” says Bernard Sumner).
The start, however, is inevitable – a fluttering Tricolore on that same screen, Sumner striding on and grabbing the mic: “Vive la France!” There’s no tension in the room – nothing beyond excitement – but it’d be forgivable if there was. The Paris attacks on Friday (November 13) were a direct assault on life’s pleasures, on young people out having a good time. The cheer that greets Sumner is defiant.
The meat of tonight’s show, and what would have been the main focus had it not been for the weekend’s events, is about the improbably vital New Order of 2015. Sumner’s old Bad Lieutenant cohorts, Tom Chapman on bass and Phil Cunningham on guitar (and synths and drum pads), are fully fledged members now. They bring relative youth and renewed energy to the current line-up – Cunningham is 40 compared to Sumner’s 59. Chapman slings his bass low like the estranged Peter Hook, while Cunningham and Sumner join forces for a rattling climax to ‘Temptation’, finding an extra burst of power.
Keyboardist and guitarist Gillian Gilbert’s back too, having taken a break from touring in 1998 to raise her and drummer Stephen Morris’ daughters. She’s helped plant recent album ‘Music Complete’ among the band’s best, and the new tracks add a bit of muscle and spark to the set. ‘Singularity’ and ‘Plastic’ are tough and kinetic tonight, while ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘People On The High Line’, a double whammy boosted by La Roux’s Elly Jackson (both on the album and on stage tonight), are a glorious reprise of ’80s house New Order and everyone knows them inside out already.
The warmest welcomes are reserved for raved-up versions of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and ‘True Faith’, the post-punk 1-2 of ‘Age Of Consent’ and ‘586’, a particularly elegiac ‘Your Silent Face’ and, of course, the killer bassline of ‘Blue Monday’. Chapman makes light of Hook’s absence and, remarkably, New Order have rarely seemed stronger – a tight unit still capable of producing songs that hold their own against a towering catalogue, and here to throw a party whether you like it or not.
New Order played:
‘Age of Consent’
‘5 8 6’
‘Your Silent Face’
‘People On The High Line’
‘Bizarre Love Triangle’
‘Waiting For The Sirens’ Call’
‘The Perfect Kiss’
‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’