I’m getting old and don’t get out to many gigs these days; although my lovely wife seems to have rediscovered a passion for live music and is regularly off out to gigs with her gaggle of Muser fans. Still, she couldn’t find anyone to go to see New Order with her, so she decided to drag me along instead.
New Order are a great recording band; their back-catalogue is fantastic and there are a very few New Order tracks that I don’t like; I suspect like many of my generation, any kind of affection for dance-music can be directly attributed to them and especially ‘Blue Monday’. But they are very variable live, sometimes awful and sometimes stunning; in the past, this could often be attributed to whether Hooky and Barney had fallen out…still Hooky is no more which may explain why this time in the space of one gig, we got the truly awful and the truly sublime.
Brixton Academy is a tricky venue; it’s sound can be very odd and very unforgiving; bass-lines can boom and bounce; vocals lost and feedback howl. It can feel soulless and empty even when packed to the rafters. I’ve been coming to see bands at Brixton for over twenty years, I’ve seen them conquer and collapse but never in the same gig.
The omens were not especially good, The Whip played support and seemed to be struggling to get either atmosphere or a sound; bass-lines heavier and more thudding than a pair of Beats clashed and smashed.
And the New Order came on, the sound all over the place and Barney’s vocals muffled and cracked. Now, Barney never has the strongest of voices, he’s no Ian Curtis and his nervous demeanour, eager to please, edgey and uncomfortable just seemed to leave you wondering, perhaps now was the time to leave, go home and listen to the records and decide that you’d just seen another bad New Order performance.
Then it seemed to start to come together; Bizarre Love Triangle lifted the crowd and apart from a couple of klaxon-like feedback howls; it was good. A reworked True Faith, with the seminal video playing on the screen brought back the humour and the fun; tight and the desk having found the sound, mastering the venue. 586, Blue Monday and Temptation…the other New Order, the one who can play and lift a crowd were back.
Then they were gone….
To return to their past; covers of Transmission and Love Will Tear Us Apart to leave us with the memories of the band they were. Unfortunately, Barney really never can do justice to the Ian Curtis orginal vocals…he’s simply not tortured enough but they were good enough.
So a gig which sums up the New Order live experience…terrible and sublime. Time for them to call it a day for real I reckon…