New Order played a sold-out show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley to an enthusiastic crowd on April 21st.
Tonight they’re a five piece, sans erstwhile bassist Peter Hook. Yet while the line-up has changed the music is still magical - they sound if anything even better without their ace of bass.
Last year’s Music Complete re-embraced their love of electronica and such is their love for that record they open the evening with a song from it. As the new New Order, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham open with “Singularity” there are familiar elements at play, the aesthetic remains a fusion of cinematic electronica with a world weary vocal, but the new songs are brilliant additions to their cannon.
“Plastic”, played to a film backdrop that’s pure Kraftwerk circa Autobahn in its graphics, could have been on either of their two finest records, Low Life or Technique.
As their rhythm envelops the theater, the playing of their human drum machine Morris - shaped by Joy Division producer Martin Hannett’s insistence that the band record endless takes in the studio - is wondrous. And to the left is the central cog that is Gillian Gilbert. If Morris is their virtuoso player then she’s the conductor, unshowy in her stage art but coaxing all sorts of wonderful sounds from her keyboard. Sumner is quite the frontman too.
As wonderful as the new songs are, the classics set the crowd alight. “Your Silent Face” from Power, Corruption and Lies with its ebbing intro before those elegiac strings enter the arrangement is delightful electronica.
“Bizarre Love Triangle” shows their ability to make an incredibly layered and complicated arrangement sound simple.
Then, it's “True Faith” that gets the entire theater on their feet, inspiring giddy, uncontrolled dancing and abandon. Next was “Blue Monday” and whilst they must have played it a thousand times it still sounds remarkably fresh. Then following, “Temptation” feels like a masterclass in pop music.
The encore flows into "Decades" and then the classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, poignant images of Ian Curtis and the words “Forever Joy Division” are projected onto the backdrop, but such is the fury of Morris’s drumming and the energy of the other players this isn’t a sentimental re-tread, they sound reborn.
The line-up may have changed, but the effortless grandeur of New Order’s music hasn’t. Tonight they did something tremendous, they gave us a beautiful reminder why music is the greatest art form.
Your Silent Face
Bizarre Love Triangle
Waiting for the Sirens' Call
The Perfect Kiss
Decades (Here Are The Young Men)
Love Will Tear Us Apart