Published Oct 24, 2012In 2012, there will always be an elephant in whatever room New Order play. Or should we say, an elephant missing? Having parted ways with co-founder/bassist/big mouth Peter Hook in 2007, New Order reforming last year without him had many fans feeling like something would be missing. (Hook hasn't exactly earned much sympathy, blasphemously touring both Joy Division and New Order albums with his band the Light.)
Playing their first Toronto show in over 19 years, Bernard "Barney" Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert (with Phil Cunningham on guitar and synths, and Tom Chapman on bass) pulled out all the stops, bringing a first-class light show with lasers, individually catered visuals for each song and the energy of 20-somethings.
Walking out to some Ennio Morricone, they received a hero's welcome, beginning with poignant instrumental "Elegia" and then abruptly switching gears into the high-octane "Crystal." The band stayed true to the set list they'd been playing so far on tour, packing "Regret," "Ceremony" and "Age of Consent" into a thrilling triad early on.
Sumner then announced they'd throw in Joy Division's "Isolation," which was modernized and given plenty more muscle than the 1980 original. Using the screen to personalize each song, the affecting "Your Silent Face" was given extra love with its own short film. Only with the more recent "Waiting for the Sirens' Call" did the band falter, as Barney failed to stay on key. But it was nothing to pick nits about.
They saved the biggest hits for the second half: for "Bizarre Love Triangle," Sumner broke out his infamous baggy dance, bobbing around as he's always done without any care, and then he asked everyone else to bounce to their biggest hit, "Blue Monday," ending it with Barney joining Gillian on synths. For "True Faith," they introduced a remixed version that was surprisingly potent, while "The Perfect Kiss" sounded massive, rebounding those lovable frog samples off the walls off the venue's near-perfect acoustics. "Temptation" closed out the set, baiting people to get up and sing its irresistible lyrics.
They had to cut a song from the encore because of the curfew, but Sumner at least took a poll of which Joy Division song we wanted to hear: "Atmosphere" or "Transmission." They opted for the latter, revving up the crowd with the pulsating rhythm, then closed with a no-brainer: their late band's signature song "Love Will Tear Us Apart," flashing a photo of the late Ian Curtis out of respect.
Even at their highest peak, New Order never had the reputation for being a truly great live band, but on this night they rolled out one hell of a package, delivering a truly elating performance that was backed by some of the most effective visuals on the circuit. Witnessing just how inspiring New Order are in 2012, maybe we should be feeling a bit of sympathy for Peter Hook. Because he's missing out on something great.
To see Exclaim!'s New Order photo gallery, courtesy of Fil ZuZarte, head here.