New Order: Novi Sad, Serbia, July 13, 2012
Novi Sad, Serbia
July 13th, 2012
The British band New Order has been making music for roughly three decades. In that time, these rockers have built audiences the world over even after the band's 1980s and '90s heyday. The band, which grew out of the rubble of the much missed seminal band Joy Division, fused that band's gloomy aesthetic to electronic dance music, by adding ecstatic rhythms to its darkish soundscapes. It was virtually the first band to find inspiration in underground dance and electronic acts, as it wholeheartedly embraced technology, electronic music, rock intensity and the dance floor, spawning a myriad of signature songs.
Not so long ago, in 2007, one of the founding members, bassist Peter Hook, unilaterally announced the band's split, and each party took on a different route. Singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner formed Bad Lieutenant, while Hook formed his own band, The Light, that performed Joy Division songs. In 2011, the remaining band membersincluding drummer Stephen Morris and returning keyboardist Gillian Gilbert decided to reform New Order, but with a Peter Hook-shaped hole in the band's lineup. But paradox is the heart and soul of this band, as it has split and reformed numerous times in its long history.
By being present for so long, in a weird way, the performance of New Order at Exit festival felt almost like a homecoming party, showing that the band hasn't lost its fire or its audience. With the opening sounds of composer Ennio Morricone's track, its members took to the stage in a quiet yet triumphant fashion and, as soon as Sumner greeted the audience, the band started with the quiet but riveting hidden gem, "Elegia." The cheer that greeted the group as it arrived was deafening; the audience behaved as though the gig was already a triumph. From there, the atmosphere built on as New Order embarked on a pumped up tour of memorable tracks like "Crystal," "Regret,"' "Love Vigilantes," "Ceremony" and "The Age of Consent."
Taking into account its longevity on the music scene, New Order really has a catalog of hit songs to draw from, one that easily translates into the audience singing lustily along, and dancing as well. The set list was carefully selected and contained songs from various corners of the band's illustrious history, which reflected its many stylistic influences. It was a greatest hits kind of list, going forwards with songs like the bouncy and playful "Krafty," from Waiting for the Siren's Call (London, 2005), and backwards with older New Order tracksand even further still, by including Joy Division's "Isolation, brilliantly rearranged with a myriad of electronica sounds and beats.
While Hook's signature leading melodic bass and the equally famous low slung bass stance were definitely missed, the five-piece band really put on a great show, with Bad Lieutenant bassist Tom Chapman ably taking on the bass duties, and additional guitarist Phil Cunningham adding some rhythmic ballast. On the other hand, it was drummer Morris who was pumping a plethora of his signature propulsive beats with a machine-like precision that held the band together throughout the show, and whose rhythms gave the songs a different and refreshing feel. Gillian Gilbert was standing almost frozen behind her keyboards playing melodies in what seemed a deep concentration. Sumner may not look like a natural front man, but he was a great master of ceremonies. In the background, there was a huge screen that had spectacular visualizations, and excerpts from their old videos all mixed together with a standard light show. But it wasn't the spectacle that won the crowd over that night; it was the songs with which New Order connected so easily with its fans.
"True Faith" and "Bizzare Love Triangle" brought waves of delight and pulsating that made you "feel so extraordinary" and by the time the band reached the euphoric dance anthem "Blue Monday," the audience was well-prepared. By far its best-known track, its huge sound filled the auditorium with euphoriaand maybe nostalgiaand the group brought in the boys and girls from dance act Hercules and the Love Affair to dance on stage, waving a British flag. With its juddering beats and infectious bass melodies, this floor-filler of truly epic proportions was the perfect dance track that, like Ravel's Bolero, could go on forever. Yet, for all the glory and craziness it provoked, and despite hopes for an extended version, it seemed irritatingly short. The set ended with "Temptation," a beautiful, brooding eight-minute stomp of electronic beats, punchy bass lines and beautiful vocals.
The encore brought further chills as New Order launched into Joy Division's "Transmission," with its instantly recognizable darkish, penetrating and menacing bass riff. There was a moment, during the first bars of the song, when something went wrong with Sumner's guitar and he ran to change it, almost missing his opening lines. Again, a string broke on the new guitar mid-song, almost feeling like a welcoming distraction to what seemed a perfectly executed show. The anthemic "Love Will Tear us Apart" was devastatingly beautiful, and a spirited blast that Sumner dedicated to all the punks in the audience. It was the perfect ending to an almost perfect concert.
Despite the band's long hiatuses and break ups, New Order's music still sounds vital and strangely relevant. The group put on a great show, demonstrating that, if the music is good, it can certainly stand the test of time and survive passing fashions.
All Photos: Ilinka Delceva