New Order @ Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, 17/10/2011
By: Brett Spaceman
As a school-leaver heading to college, New Order were my band. I guess they were your band too so you will know what I mean when I say that in those days we cherished every release, knew every track and their exact sequencing. I even made myself a tape recording of my absolute favourites. That way I could hear ‘Dreams Never End’, ‘Ceremony’, ‘Procession’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’ at will. I know other New Order fans did that exact same thing.
Us New Order diehards, we invented playlists!
Skip forward 30 years and here they are again, reformed, although bereft of the estranged Peter Hook, and doing it all for money. Only the money is for a tremendous cause. The two gigs, Brussels and Paris are benefit shows, raising funds for film-maker friend, Michael Shamberg, who is struggling with a debilitating illness. Kudos to New Order for this. It’s the primary plus point of the whole evening. Only in this instance for “primary”, read first of many. In Bernard Sumners words; “There’s plenty more where that came from”. Even taking aside the ‘worthy cause’ element, the gig was a triumph.
First and foremost, the setlist. Wow, is all I can say. New Order succeed where OMD so blatantly failed in this exact same venue back in November of last year. They gave us what we wanted, rather than what they think we should want. Obvious openers ‘Crystal’ and ‘Regret’ gave way to classic early New Order such as ‘Ceremony’, ‘Age Of Consent’, and even the b-side most favoured by fans, ‘1963’. It is fantastic on two levels, 1) getting the songs, and 2) the fact the New Order don’t usually do this. Under normal, recent circumstances, New Order misunderstood the strength of their current material and subsequent sets are diluted by whatever album they are promoting at the time. This gig was a fanthology for us greying fortysomething’s who followed the band since the beginning.
Then there was the attitude and energy. I honestly cannot remember Bernard this into it. I have seen New Order countless times in the last 25 years and most of those performances were so flat, Barney could have phoned them in. Tonight, he’s chirpy, he’s playful, and he dances that dreadful dance of his. Bernard is brilliant tonight. No exaggeration. The funniest moment came when the crowd were calling for ‘1963’ and Bernard deadpanned “Oh no, that’s one song we’ll never play live, forget it”. They played it next! It feels so good to see New Order having fun.
Sound quality? Brussels boxy AB is always prone to sonic difficulties. The start of ‘Crystal’ was a bit chaotic but I can’t complain overall. C’mon, it’s a show. If we want aural perfection we should stay at home and play Power Corruption and Lies.
What else? Well it’s lovely to see Gillian back of course and Steve, as always, is flawless on drums (not only) Then of course, there’s the thorny issue of Hooky. From the various people I spoke to opinion seemed divided. Band feuding can do that to followers. People judge and take sides on matters where they know next to nothing. For my tuppence worth – with side projects or partial reformations, you always notice the part that is missing. I just find it a shame that two men who are both justifiably proud of what they’ve done together, are held back from doing the right thing by that self same pride. Rift, feud, hissy fit, or lovers tiff, tonight was tremendous and if Hooky could have been part of it, it would have been the cherry on top. Personally I still retain hope. Bridges can be built from a single phone call. Never say never guys.
What a rapturous evening though. They played ‘586’ ffs. They played an outstanding ‘Temptation’ and they left us with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. “Are we allowed to play Joy Division songs?”, Barney asks with a grin. Masterful. Surely a full reunion tour would be a huge success both commercially and artistically.
The only sour note on the whole proceedings was the slight whiff of underhandedness somewhere behind the scenes. As mentioned, the whole event was a benefit. The AB venue didn’t promote this particular gig (sold out inside 20 mins, btw) and LiveNation told me that there was no press/media admission or guestlist of any kind. This didn’t matter to me. I’m a fan. The thought of going to see a favourite band, on a charity night, ‘gratis’ didn’t sit comfortably with me. I approved. The only problem was of course that it wasn’t the truth. I can confirm without fear of rebuke that there was a guestlist. Of course there was. Not only that but I observed exactly how it was being managed. The person manning the desk was asking for a €20 “contribution” to charity. Legitimate tax or unscrupulous rake-off, we may never know, but I can tell you this, none of the guests I witnessed were aware of this ‘arrangement’. It could have been above board of course, but then that would contradict what the Promoter told me beforehand. “Yes you can cover the show but be aware we ask you for a €20 donation to the cause”; they could have said. They didn’t. Something doesn’t quite stack up.
Someone, somewhere is lying or worse. Very shabby indeed. That, my friends, sums up the music industry.
05. Age of Consent
06. Love Vigilantes
09. Bizarre Love Triangle
10. True Faith
12. The Perfect Kiss
14. Blue Monday
15. Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
Photography with kind permission from Sparklingphotos.