By John Curley
The crowd seemed very excited when entering New York City’s grand Radio City Music Hall for New Order’s sold-out show on Thursday, March 10th, and the Mancunian band did not disappoint. They put on a spectacular show that managed the seemingly impossibly feat of making the cavernous Manhattan venue feel like an intimate dance club. Their pounding, propulsive, and throbbing tunes had many in the crowd up and dancing in their seats and in the aisles. It was quite a sight, and made for a fantastic atmosphere for the show. The music was augmented by a terrific light show as well as short films and images that fit the mood of every song that were projected onto screens behind the band and at either side of the stage.
New Order is touring in support of their tenth album, Music Complete, which is their first album of new material since 2005. The band is currently comprised of Bernard Sumner (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Stephen Morris (drums, synths), Gillian Gilbert (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Phil Cunningham (guitar, keyboards, synths), and Tom Chapman (bass, guitar, keyboards). Music Complete is the first album of new material without longtime bassist Peter Hook, who left the band in 2007. Gilbert returned to New Order in 2011 after having had departed the band in 2001.
The show began with a 30-minute set by ZGRT, a project of the Brooklyn, New York-based musician Zachery Allan Starkey. ZGRT has released one single, “Hard Power,” and is currently working on an album. Starkey (lead vocals, synthesizer, bass, and guitar) was joined on the massive Radio City stage by Jo-Anne Hyun (synthesizer, backing vocals, live sequencing), Laura Holden (synthesizer, backing vocals), Frank Michael Piccarillo (bass, percussion), Avi Jacob (drums, live programming), and Mamiko Kushida (live visuals). Their songs, which sound something like a heavy-duty cross between The Human League and latter-day Gary Numan, had quite a few people in the crowd dancing. They left the stage to cheers from the crowd and with their instruments still roaring with feedback. It was a very effective exit. They were good and definitely worth checking out.
While Radio City is a seated venue, many in the crowd rose to their feet and cheered as New Order’s intro music played and purple spotlights shone on the giant arch above the stage and on the ceiling. A good bit of the crowd remained standing (or dancing) for the entire show.
New Order’s first song of the night, “Singularity” from the new album, was a good choice. Anchored by Morris’ propulsive drumming and Chapman’s pounding bass, it got the crowd moving and roaring from the get go. (Six songs from Music Complete were performed at the show.) They followed that up with “Ceremony,” the performance of which turned the orchestra section into a sea of dancing fans.
“Academic” from the new album received its first-ever live performance at the Radio City show. It was quite good, and the light show that accompanied it was amazing. The ferocious performance of “Crystal” that followed was one of the many highlights of the show. And the synth-heavy and Kraftwerk-like “586” received a nice hand from the crowd.
“Restless,” the first single from the new album, sounds like classic New Order, and proves that there has been no dip in quality despite Hook’s departure. And it sounds just as good live as it does on the album. The performance of “Restless” had many people dancing and received a massive cheer from the crowd. That was really good to hear, since fans of veteran bands usually listen patiently to the new material while waiting for their old favorites to be played. That was certainly not the case at this show. The enthusiasm and excitement in the crowd never really let up throughout New Order’s two-hour set.
The performance of “Your Silent Face” included Sumner playing a wind instrument during the instrumental break. The synth-heavy “Tutti Frutti” got the crowd dancing again. And they continued dancing throughout the performance of “People On The High Line.” Prior to playing the song, Sumner told the crowd that it was inspired by a walk that he took on the High Line, disused elevated rail tracks on Manhattan’s West Side that have been turned into a public park, during New Order’s last visit to New York City.
One of the biggest hands of the evening went to the performance of “Bizarre Love Triangle.” It was terrific. The atmospheric, but danceable “Waiting For The Sirens’ Call” kept the crowd moving. And the crowd danced and cheered their way through the synth-and-drums-heavy performances of “Plastic” and “The Perfect Kiss.”
The extended performance of “True Faith” highlighted Gilbert on keyboards and received what was probably the biggest ovation of the night. “Temptation,” which was the last song of the main set, was also extended and had what seemed like the entire crowd in the venue dancing in the aisles.
The two-song encore saw New Order paying tribute to Joy Division, which included Sumner, Morris, and Hook in its lineup. The performance of Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” featured Morris’ very heavy, almost tribal, drumming. The audience listened with rapt attention. A rocking version of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” closed out the evening. The crowd was cheering throughout and let loose a massive roar when the words “FOREVER JOY DIVISION” were projected onto the screen behind the band.
The only down note of the evening was that there wasn’t time for New Order to perform their traditional encore closer, “Blue Monday.” They were up against an 11 p.m. curfew, and the performance of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” had ended shortly before the clock struck eleven. The house lights remained off for a short period when the band left the stage following “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” but it did seem like they would return to the stage for “Blue Monday.” Those hopes were dashed when the house lights came on after about a minute, after which the danced-out and hoarse crowd began to file out of the venue. But that is a very minor quibble on what was a truly great night of music at Radio City. Now in their 36th year, New Order are just as potent and powerful as they were in their heyday.
New Order’s set list was as follows:
Your Silent Face
People On The High Line
Bizarre Love Triangle
Waiting For The Sirens’ Call
The Perfect Kiss
Atmosphere (cover of Joy Division song)
Love Will Tear Us Apart (cover of Joy Division song)