18 October 2011
Now. Talk about event of the year. Not only is New Order going to get back together, they have just announced 2 gigs, the first of which is in the 2000 capacity Ancienne Belgique. So tickets are like rocking horse shit, and everyone who's anyone has turned up, including Annik Honoré, lots of musicians in various bands, including Front 242, Der Klinke, Red Zebra, a large crowd from the UK, and others as far-a-field as Germany and Norway.
New Order are notoriously inconsistent live. I don't mean they have some shit days and some days where they're out of this world, I mean that they manage to cram total brilliance and utter shite into each and every gig, usually with some bad jokes and a technical hitch thrown in.
And we are all bracing ourselves, because Hooky is not on the bill, and they're getting the bass player from Bad Lieutenant, whose name I will not dignify by googling, to fill in.
I've got 2 reviews points here. They look at the event from different perspectives, and I thought both were sufficient valid to be worth publishing.
First from Jerôme Delvaux, former editor of PopRock.com, which pretty much describes the gig wrapped up in the controversy that surrounded it, then from me, as it happened.
As seen by Jerôme Delvaux
New Order live without iconic bassist Hooky. Just this announcement is enough to let passions rip. Yû, former star columnist at Pop-Rock.com, speaks without hesitation of high treason, a crime which in which he states that the audience is complicit. From our private correspondence:
"It's not a provocation, it is a fact. And the argument is simple: according to the original agreement, the group no longer existed if anyone left is well enough known to be valid, and moreover, has at no time been refuted by the people concerned, rather the opposite. As one founder member left, the group no longer exists, following the principle established by this agreement. To continue to use the name and act as if the group still exists is a betrayal of the member who left, and go to their concert is an act of complicity in the betrayal. Whether you like it or not, this is how things are. "
The prospect of seeing two members of Joy Division for the first time on stage, however, is too tempting, regardless of their internal wars and clashes of ego. Especially seeing as the keyboard player Gillian is back after an absence of over ten long years. Add to that the official justification for this unexpected comeback of the Mancunians (for just two concerts yesterday in Brussels and Paris tonight) is to provide financial assistance to their friend video director Michael Shamberg, who is seriously ill. This overrides the Yû theory about the legitimacy of the set-up: it is not about money or glory but only about friendship. And that it deserves at least respect.
In the end, everything went pretty much the way I had anticipated. This concert at the Ancienne Belgique was good, and that's it.
That's it because too short: only fifteen songs whilst Brian Wilson played another forty for the same price (42 euros), it's baffling.
That's it because Bernard Sumner sings badly, dances badly and has the charisma of a drunk Englishman on a beach in Ibiza. (which we knew really)
That's it because you can hear that this set is not run in (and how could it - its the first gig in six years, with a new line-up...).
That's it because one of my favorite songs, Crystal, was massacred right at the off: it wasn't far off like seeing a New Order cover band (The Killers?).
That's it because the first album, Movement, and the ever popular Technique are completely ignored in the set list.
That's it because the new bass player (Tom Chapman, as seen in Bad Lieutenant, Sumner's latest side project) does not play like Peter Hook. But in his defence, nobody plays like Peter Hook.
That's it because the film by Michael Shamberg about Lebanon projected before the concert broke the festive atmosphere that prevailed up until that point.
That's it because a final Blue Monday / Love Will Tear Us Apart was too predictable.
That's it because a single Joy Division song, that's really not enough.
That's it because Annik Honoré clearly loved it and we know she is not objective.
That's it because cute little couple tenderly entwined in the pit for The Perfect Kiss broke up with a crash at the end of Temptation. And that's really sad.
As seen by Jez:
I hope you enjoy it as much as we're going to, because we're going to fuckin' enjoy ourselves tonight.
Bernard lays down the mission statement, just as Eligia kicks in with a backdrop of pills, blood cells, smoke, and a few pictures of derelict buildings.
Then a shaky launch into Crystal. No, it's not Hooky on the bass, and I don't know if it was nerves, the sound engineer or a problem with Bernard's autoqueue, but by verse 2, everything is sorted, and unbelievably that is (almost) as bad as it got.
Regret, is much better, almost flawless, and has the crowd convinced that maybe it won't be that bad a gig after all.
Ceremony sees Gillian on guitar and Steve doing what he's been doing for 30 years - the tightest, must mechanical drummer in the business. In fact all these songs in the early set see; to be played live without a sequencer.
Phil & Whosisface don't get much of a cheer, but Steve does, as we've now realised that Bernard is introducing the band, and a "welcome back" for Gillian gets one of the loudest cheers of the night.
Age of Consent is immaculate, but is followed by "something from the latest album", which falls rather flat. (Krafty, apparently)
1963, which they "never" play suffers from the sound engineer mixing the guitars too high, inaudible synths and the bass playing a bass line that was never meant to be played on a bass guitar. Interestingly enough, Whosisface has swapped his Fender Precision (I think) for a Musicman 4-string that looks like it has a low B tuning for this one.
Bizarre Love Triangle is the first time they've used a sequencer in the set. It suffers only from that huge stage presence that is Hooky that ought to be up there going "turn me up you bastard so we can really annoy Bernard or I'll ram my bass up your arse". Which may well have a lot to do with Bernard being on top form an seeming very relaxed, managing to get through the whole set without mentioning the war...
True Faith has been reworked with an almost unrecognisable intro, and is evidence that the band are not prepared just to reproduce what we know from the records, but are still finding new life in old material. 586 also proves to be an absolute Gem, to the great delight of some of the hardcore fans.
Perfect Kiss would have made a good set closer, and get's by far the biggest cheer of the night so far. How could they follow that? With Temptation, which is just as good. And then off.
Back on for Blue Monday. Bernard does his rockstar thing and comes on at the last minute in cue for the vocals, and for once, the bass is close to being right. Or to use the words of a certain young bass player (whom I shall spare the embarrassment of naming), it was too loud and too in-yer-face. Just the way it should be...
Only one thing could surpass that, and surpass it, it did. A very cheerful rendition of the best song of the evening:Love Will Tear Us Apart.
Post gig consesnus? Quite possibly the best overall New Order gig ever.
But it would have been SO MUCH better with Hooky.
BLT - a personal favorite.