New Order, Finsbury Park, London

Return of the old Order
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The Independent Culture

Reformed and rejuvenated, New Order have filled the bill for their own one-day festival in north London with an impeccable list of some of today's finest bands. It's a testament to their enduring status, but unfortunately they've brought Manchester's slate-grey weather with them, too. The punk attack of the Cooper Temple Clause and the sly psychedelic Super Furry Animals have to proceed under rain that ranges from spitting to torrential, and Finsbury Park is soon a quagmire.

Reformed and rejuvenated, New Order have filled the bill for their own one-day festival in north London with an impeccable list of some of today's finest bands. It's a testament to their enduring status, but unfortunately they've brought Manchester's slate-grey weather with them, too. The punk attack of the Cooper Temple Clause and the sly psychedelic Super Furry Animals have to proceed under rain that ranges from spitting to torrential, and Finsbury Park is soon a quagmire.

Echo and the Bunnymen – still one of the finest Eighties live bands extant – at least fit the climate, as bleak greyness always seemed the prevailing mood of their home decade; they bring on Coldplay's Chris Martin to indicate, in dispiriting style, that it is in fact still 2002. It's left to Air to warm us up for the hosts. As the "Glass Onion"-style psych-rock of "Sex Gone Crazy" oscillates and the rain drops on a sea of umbrellas, a state of relaxation grows. And for "Sexy Boy", the sun comes out. Air's faint attempts at a light-show may wither in the natural light, but their Seventies-style, comforting synth crackles make them a model modern festival band.

"I wouldn't have come out in this," New Order's Bernard Sumner mutters a little later. "It didn't rain for the Queen, did it?" In fact, his band are blessed with miraculous clear blue skies denied to Her Majesty, and their performance likewise gains in brightness and definition as each song ticks by.

Although last year's comeback album, Get Ready, failed to reclaim their position as a leading band of the contemporary world, it's to that record, and other low-key and left-field aspects of their career, that New Order turn first. "60 Miles an Hour" sees Peter Hook crotch-strainingly bestride the stage and swing his bass in ridiculous style, but the notes he wrings from it have the echoes of old Eighties doom.

"She's Lost Control", by the group's previous incarnation, Joy Division, soon follows, with a sadomasochist-suggestive whipcrack of drum machines, and a hint of even older, more powerful Northern bleakness.

"Second time we've played that in 25 years," Sumner reflects. Big pause, taking in the suicide of their original singer, Ian Curtis. "For obvious reasons."

But it's 1987's premature Ecstasy-generation anthem "True Faith", with its feeling of euphoric uplift combined with the naked exposure of the morning after, that really sets the tone for today's New Order. With Sumner visibly girding himself for middle-aged leaps, and roaring where once he sang meekly, his band have become professional, inspirational repositories of anthems for their generation. The bittersweetness in all their songs prevents complete nostalgia from setting in but, as even Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is received as a celebration, not the inquisition that it once was, it cannot be denied that New Order mean less and give simpler pleasure than they used to. Their football theme, "World in Motion", gets the night's biggest cheer. For once, they've touched on current events.

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