New Order Budweiser Stage, Toronto ON, August 30
Published Aug 31, 2018"Sorry it's taken us so long to come back."
Bernard Sumner was fully aware of how long it had been since New Order last paid a visit to the city of Toronto. But he and the rest of the band were more than ready to make it up to their fans. "We'll give you an antidote to Ed Sheeran," he mentioned of the mega-star playing Toronto's adjacent Rogers Centre that night, then added: "not that there's anything wrong with that."
Six years have passed since the legendary Manchester band last played Toronto, a stretch in which they released a long overdue new album, 2015's Music Complete. But for this short, seven-date North American tour, Canada was lucky to get one show added to the schedule.
The band didn't waste time introducing the new material, launching right into the urgent "Singularity" to get things going, while spreading out more memorable tunes like the motorik "Superheated," the Eurobeat-leaning "Tutti Fruitti" and the resoundingly bass-y "Plastic."
Despite the outdoor setting, New Order spent a good portion of the night instilling a thumping club vibe into the air. Most of this segment comprised remixes of songs, which didn't come as much of a surprise coming from a band that had multiple versions of basically every song in the '80s. Still, they opted to use updated versions of crowd-pleaser "Bizarre Love Triangle," "True Faith" and "Subculture," of which Sumner explained, "We reworked that song. I think it's pretty good."
Accompanying each song were themed visuals, some of which were familiar, but most were new. They used the music video for "Crystal," which famously gave the Killers their name, as well as the luxurious getaway infomercial for "Your Silent Face." "I've played it a thousand times," Sumner couldn't resist admitting, "but I still think it's a beautiful song." Elsewhere though, the visuals were primarily a series of dazzling shapes, patterns and colours associated with each track.
Sumner's vocals were far from perfect — he struggled to hit some notes during "Subculture" and "Bizarre Love Triangle" — but he more than made up for it as an entertainer. While the rest of the band — Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham — primarily focused on their instruments, the frontman had some fun with his role. He played guitar for a handful of tracks, but he mostly used his free time to show off his dad-like dance moves, join Gilbert on synths and even ham it up during "Blue Monday" by miming out some lyrics to comic effect (i.e. checking his watch during the line, "Now I stand here waiting").
They ended the set with a faithful version of fan favourite "Temptation," which saw a sparkling disco ball emerge from up high and a massive blinking blue-green eye fit the screen. Sensing its appeal, Sumner held his mic to crowd to capture the crowd's "ooooh ooooh" refrain. From there he yelled, "Thank you! Toronto rocks!" before leaving the stage.
When they returned, Sumner wasted no time teasing the encore. "I see we've got one Joy Division fan in the front… You're from Manchester? I think you'll like this."
Morris and Chapman began that propulsive rhythm section of "Disorder," and then just like that, the members of New Order transformed into their previous band. Once finished, Sumner added, "I don't think we've ever played that here in Toronto." Joking, "Joy Division never played Toronto, right?"
"Decades" followed, along with haunting clips of a grainy Ian Curtis, which gave the funereal song added solemnity. And then came "Love Will Tear Us Apart," complemented with more old images of the band, along with its title moving across the screen intermittently. Somehow, over the years, Joy Division's signature song has been tweaked by the band and shaped into a stadium rock anthem; even with Sumner singing Curtis' words, it sounded majestic.
"We'd love to play forever for you," Sumner announced before they walked offstage. As tempting as that offer sounded, we'll just be happy with regular visits whenever New Order cross the pond.