New Order @ Brixton Academy
New Order might be encouraging men of a certain age to spill their pints as they attempt to dance, but Mat Beal salutes their "ravetastic" live show nonetheless. Photos: Nick Henderson
We’re in London’s trendy Brixton to see the legendary post-punk electropop band New Order. Unless we’re to believe ex-band member Peter Hook, that is, in which case we’re witnessing nothing more than a grotesque charade, complete with mimed bass parts.
Hooky, y’see, is absent from this tour, replaced by a Mr Tom Chapman while he gets on with the important job of turning the City of Manchester into a Factory Records theme park. It’s prompted mumbling in some quarters about whether this new line-up has any right to call itself New Order at all; although Gillian Gilbert, now back in her rightful place behind the synths (and a guitar, on one song), was on sabbatical for a whole decade until recently and nobody seemed to mind much.
The audience seems unperturbed by the personnel changes, anyway: the Academy is packed out, predominantly by men of a certain age who keep pointing at the ceiling and spilling lager everywhere. And New Order, or whoever they are, sound great, gamely romping through edited highlights from their hefty catalogue of hits, flanked by beefed-up beats and ravetastic lighting and visuals. The only let-down is Bernard Sumner’s barely audible vocals; he sounds like he’s singing into a bucket.
New Order have been around for so long now (on and off), it’s easy to take them for granted and forget how important and influential they are. And while it’s the timeless 80s classics (True Faith, Perfect Kiss, Blue Monday) that are received the warmest, even the relatively recent stuff, like 2002’s Here To Stay, sounds massive.
They encore with Transmission and an incongruously upbeat Love Will Tear Us Apart, undeterred by the fact that ex-Joy Divison members are now in a minority onstage.