New Order, Brixton Academy, London
A muffled blast from the past
Later this summer New Order will return to London to play alongside Blur in a "Best of British" gig at Hyde Park to mark the end of the Olympics.
There's no doubting that NO are one of Britain's finest, but they might have to fix up their live sound to hold their own in London's most prestigious field. Soon after the last notes rang out here, disgruntled concert- goers headed online to complain about the show's iffy sound on the ground level. (Upstairs, for what it's worth, sounded OK.)
This is the band's first proper tour (they played a few one-offs in December) since their split in 2007, with a line up that sees Gillian Gilbert return to the band alongside her replacement Phil Cunningham, as well, of course, as Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris. The bass-playing elephant in the room is the estranged Peter Hook.
Musically, the fivesome are fine without Hooky (who, in March, accused new bassist Tom Chapman of miming to Hook's own parts on "Round and Round"). Chapman, it's safe to say, is playing his own bass guitar, but not only is the sound the same as Hook's, his movements are too. It's a bit eerie.
Sound complaints aside, this is a wonderful set. Barney and co enter to "Elegia" from Low-Life before tearing into "Crystal", "Regret", "Ceremony" and "Age of Consent" – a miniature cross-section of the band's career.
Of course, Sumner still sings like he's in the middle of a wet shave, but that's part of the brilliant paradox of the band – if they were fronted by a Righteous Brother they wouldn't be half as loved. With his vocals low down in the mix, it's sometimes difficult to make anything out, though songs like "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "True Faith" whip up apoplexy regardless. Sumner's chat is charmingly weak, too; after misidentifying a Portuguese fan as French, he tries to make amends by telling the crowd: "We used to have a Portuguese player at United... Ronaldo." Thanks for that, Barney.
Again, it doesn't matter when you've written some of the greatest songs ever. The show culminates with a four-shot hit of "Blue Monday" ("Calm down, it's just a song," Sumner tells the crowd); a glorious "Temptation", and a double-Joy Division encore of "Transmission" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart". For younger fans, this may well have been a first chance to see New Order, for others, it offered sometimes brilliant nostalgia. And, for others, a spot of earache. Oh well.
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