September 9, 2013
New Order played at Jodrell Bank this summer in front of a crowd of 15,000 people. A reliable source told me Bernard arrived by helicopter, despite the fact he only lives a couple of miles away. On Sunday evening Peter Hook played the Fleece in Bristol – a venue barely bigger than my front room. He made his entrance from behind the bar – I almost expected him to be pulling pints as well.
It’s difficult not to compare the two version of New Order currently plundering their past. The other three play crowd pleasing greatest hits sets to stadium size audiences, while Hooky is taking the chronological route through the band’s substantial back catalogue. Having worked his way through Joy Division he’s now moved on to the first two New Order albums.
I was particularly looking forward to this set as it takes me full circle – I first saw New Order live in 1983 after Movement but before Power, Corruption and Lies when the set was made up of songs from both albums. I remember a bad tempered, intense and very short set with, of course, no encore.
Tonight couldn’t have been more different. Hooky, though no less intense when performing, has an avuncular stage presence and is clearly loving playing these songs live again after all these years. He even provided the support – a rollercoaster set of some of the more ‘rockier’ Joy Division songs. When he came on stage again after a short break he quipped ‘what did you think of the support band? They’ll never get on with a name like that’
The New Order part of the night started with the low key but forever haunting In a Lonely Place, followed by a storming Ceremony. Then, as if to show this was going to be a night for the purists, we were treated to Homage – a song from the Western Works demo that, Hooky told us, hadn’t been played live since Blackpool in 1981.
Movement followed -played in its entirety. The album, much maligned by critics, fans and band members alike on its release, sounds much better live and performed by this tight band that Hooky has put together. I could never understand why the album was so panned -except that it wasn’t Joy Division. Dreams Never End, Doubts Even Here and The Him compare with anything in the New Order canon. Having not listened to it for many years it was good to hear these songs again played with renewed vigour.
The band had a five minute break ‘ this is like running a bloody marathon’ quipped Hooky on returning, before launching into Mesh and Cries and Whispers (yes this really was for the completists) before Age of Consent had some members of the audience bouncing around in a way they probably hadn’t for years. The momentum was then lost with We All Stand – and here’s my problem with playing an entire album – fillers that would never usually get an airing have to be endured. So while the jaunty Village and You Silent Face still sounded fresh , Ecstacy sounded like it always had – a few left over backing tapes spliced together. However – a small gripe – 586 still sounded like the proto house track that it was; Leave Me Alone was classic New Order melancholia and I’d completely forgotten about the brooding Ultraviolence .
The band left the stage to a backing track of Blue Monday – a knowing reference to the fact that this was the original intention of the moody buggers back in 1983, so they wouldn’t need to play an encore. But this is 30 years later and we were treated to a terrific version of Temptation that even had these old legs dancing, and the obligatory Blue Monday climaxed almost three hours of New Order history. Newbies may have been a bit tested by the nature of the set, but old obsessions (and there were plenty of us there) were thankful that the heart and soul of this great band is still trawling his ass around the kind of venues where he started those years ago.