Friday, 4 May 2012

New Order, Brixton Academy, 2nd May 2012

I'll have to come clean, I've been a fan of New Order since their first album, but somehow I'd never got to see them live.

I also thought I never would after the split with Bassman, Peter Hook, but then they did some gigs for a friend before Christmas and, again, hesitation meant I missed my chance.

When it was announced they were doing a short tour, I decided I wouldn't miss my chance again and I had a ticket for Brixton Academy on 2nd May 2012.

Brixton Academy isn't in the smartest part of London, but it's quite close to Waterloo, so it was easy to get to (a short walk from Northern Line station, Stockwell) and I arrived just as the doors opened at 7, whisking into the 'priority' queue thanks to my O2 network phone.

It's a pretty tatty looking place outside and not exactly luxurious inside. The ground floor, where I was, was at least double (maybe 3 times) as big as Shepherd's Bush O2 Arena, but it's not on the scale of the Wembley Arena. There's some baroque interior, but in the dark it was pretty hard to see much of it.

The cloakroom was two flights of stairs up, too, which proved a bit of a challenge when it came time to leave.

After about an hour of 'banging tunes' from a DJ (not bad actually) and a bland pint of Carlsberg, the support act came on.

Fellow (to New Order) Mancunian Jake Evans appeared with a second guitarist and a drummer. He was pretty uncharismatic, I felt, but he was OK and I felt the muted polite applause he got didn't really reward his performance. Sure it's a thankless task being a support act (The sound for his set was awful!) and no-one booed him off, but his set got better as he went along and deserved a warmer reception.

The DJ returned for what seemed an age - It was getting to the point, in my mind, that New Order had passed from building anticipation to keeping us waiting, but to the strains of Elegia they appeared out of the dark.

I'm one of the people who think there's good on virtually all of New Order's albums so I was happy to hear them break into Crystal as their full tempo opener. Seemed to me that most other people around me (near the front, but not quite in the maelstrom of the 'mosh pit' that developed right in front of the stage - I'd not experienced that sort of chaos since I was a 17 year old punk hanger-on!) were happy with the choice as an opener.

I've read a lot of reviewers panning the sound and claiming you couldn't tell which track was being performed, but I had no trouble (except at the very end, oddly, when the encore ending "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was sped up to the point of being hard to identify for a few moments) and, whilst it was very loud, I could hear the vocals.

What wasn't lacking was energy. From the band (Except newly returned Gillian who, true to form, was statue-like throughout) and from the wildly enthusiastic (at least around me) crowd.

As with the concert at the Troxy before Christmas, and no doubt at the upcoming Olympics and festivals, the setlist was a 'greatest hits' performance, with most of the greats being banged out enthusiastically.

Regret, Ceremony and Age Of Consent followed and then a favourite of mine, Love Vigilantes.

Another later track, Krafty, followed with Round & Round, Bizarre Love Triangle and True Faith following.

The lesser known 5 8 6 was a highlight for me and they rounded out the set with Perfect Kiss, the compulsory Blue Monday (great track, but does it really work well live?) and Temptation.

As always, we knew they were coming back on and they did so with Bernard asking "Do you like Joy Division?". Of course most people did and welcomed Transmission with enthusiasm.

The final track was Love Will Tear Us Apart, performed at a pace that, as I stated earlier, rendered it unrecognisable after the first few bars. Whether that was because the 11 O'Clock cut off was looming up or they just wanted to end on an upbeat note is hard to say, but the last verse was slowed to the stately pace the song is more usually known at.

I had enormous expectations of this concert and feared, after all these years, that I would be disappointed.

I've read the reviews that say the sound was 'crap' and that Sumner's not a natural front man (I go to concerts to see the band perform, not hear the lead man quip like Stephen Fry), but I came away feeling all my expectations hadn't just been met, but comprehensively exceeded.

The gig was loud, energetic and full of enthusiasm. Everyone I saw was having a great time from the tall twat with the inflatable mike in the front row to the rather classy looking dark haired woman I stood, and bounced, next to throughout the evening.

If the sound was terrible, it wasn't at its worst where I was as I enjoyed and recognised all thetracks and if New Order are missing Hookie, it wasn't apparent to me.

No doubt old-timers will say they were better at their peak, and who wasn't (certainly, I suspect, most of the audience), but this wasn't a sad group of 50 somethings doing a karaoke session, this was a great band celebrating their decades at the top with an audience who appreciated the importance (to them, if no-one else) of the band's music.

For me, this will always be one of the very best gigs I've ever been to - Thanks New Order!

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