New Order, O2 Arena, 6th November 2021
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
If you have read this blog before, you know I love New Order so I don’t need to elaborate or repeat. If you haven’t, read New Order - Power, Corruption and Lies (and sneezes and chat up lines), it will give you a good idea of where my head is at. I also won’t explain the whole Joy Division / New Order backstory. If you don’t know that, what on Earth are you doing reading this review?
"Hello, do you like New Order?" was my opening conversational gambit at 15/16. I was shy, awkward and trying too hard. This was literally the best I could do. To be honest, I am not sure my conversational skills have got THAT much further, but I will leave you to judge that.
Anyway, it's clear New Order mean a lot to me - perhaps too much for a man of 51. I am anxious and twitchy to get in the venue and passed the O2 Arena's security in these COVID times (no complaints there, all very important). I am excited.
We are in in plenty of time to see them as they come on stage, though we have had a long drawn out search to get a beer (sort it out O2 Arena, it's virtually impossible to get a beer at your venue).
They launch into Regret from Republic, a near perfect pop song, swiftly followed by the magnificent bass guitar driven beast that is Age Of Consent, a stately Restless from their last album Music Complete (and first without legendary bass player Hooky) and Ultravilolence from my favourite album, Power Corruption and Lies. And yet...and yet...it's a bit flat....On paper, it's a brilliant set so far, but they have been playing these same songs for a while now...they mix it up a bit, but very little. It just feels a bit "meh".
But then they launch into Disorder and Ceremony and the roof is duly lifted, as are my spirits. But my heart quickly sinks again, as they run through The Perfect Kiss. Again one of my favourite New Order songs, but it's a bit of a dog's dinner, and its humungous, soaring bass riff that closes the original is buried in the sound, masked by some fairly shite guitar playing by Barney. I know things are pretty terrible between him and Hooky, but does he really need to bury one of Hooky's finest moments? I am confused.
But then we are back on safe territory again, with the epic Your Silent Face and new number Be A Rebel, which is just marvellous live. But just as the pace has been picked up, again they lose momentum with a listless Guilt Is A Useless Emotion, an inconsequential song from one of their worst albums, Waiting For The Siren's Call. I am feeling pretty disillusioned, but then things become huge again, with a straight, dance heavy run through Subculture, 1963, Bizarre Love Triangle, Plastic, True Faith, Blue Monday and Temptation.
My friends Nick and Ignacio have even managed to procure four beers (after queuing at a bar that ran out of beer - how???). They had to beg a bar that was closing, but the boys have done good! Everyone is dancing, the light show is huge, everyone is smiling and singing - one guy up on the side seats is madly jumping like the Michelin men in the True Faith video. He seems very excitable and very happy. It's great. The venue security are trying, and failing, to stop people dancing in the aisles - shining a torch at them just gives them their own personal light show. Not what the poor beleaguered security guy was aiming for!
I remember as a teenager listening to Brotherhood and hearing Bizarre Love Triangle for this first time and thinking it was going to be a HUGE pop hit, which it never quite became. But live now, it's greeted ecstatically, the adored song it deserved to be back then.
They leave after the obligatory "oh you've got green eyes, oh you've got blue eyes, oh you've got grey eyes" singalong with Barney that is Temptation. It's wonderful.
They return for three blasts of Joy Division - Atmosphere is shaky, Transmission rocks and Love Will Tear Us Apart is the stadium rocker that Tony Wilson always expected it would become. And then they are gone, and so are we, Mrs JO'B and me to get another drink and Nick and Ignacio to head back on the long drive to Leamington.
It's been a great gig and Mrs JO'B and I contemplate why it still feels a little short of our expectations. The last time we saw them was the last night of five shows as part of the Manchester International Festival. There they played songs not heard in years, they had a twelve keyboard orchestra backing them, and it was a tiny venue, so we were right at the crash barrier. I think I was being harsh on them early in the show, judging tonight's enormodrome show against probably the best gig I have ever been to.
If New Order do tour again, something has to give though. They have an incredible back catalogue, and it's just not good enough rotating a setlist of 20 songs from a longlist of 25. Next time we need Round & Round, Face Up, Primitive Notion, Close Range, Here To Stay, Paradise, Thieves Like Us....be braver with the setlist. And more new songs, because Be A Rebel and the songs from Music Complete were amazing.
Still, marvellous to see them; True Faith remains as good live as it did the first time I heard it 34 years ago!