By Christ, do I know how to turn in a review – late, and critical of one of Manchester’s greatest bands. Incidentally, one of my favourite bands as well! I really do take the p*ss. But make no mistake, I won’t be slagging off my beloved New Order this whole review. This was my first massive gig back after the pandemic, and my first massive gig back with my friends; of course, it was an incredible evening. How I’d missed that festival feeling. It seemed everyone else had missed it too; the happiness that hung in the air that night was remarkable. I think that letting ‘Regret’ washing over me and looking around to countless beaming faces filled my heart with a strange sense of pride. I closed my eyes and watched their neon laser show burst through my eyelids with little green sparks, and listened, really listened to the hum of human life. Unsure if that makes me sound a bit Patrick Bateman, but bear with me. I just mean that to hear a crowd poorly and with varying degrees of vocal talent croon out ‘The Perfect Kiss’, frog solo and all, felt good for the soul. Manchester is undoubtedly one of the best crowds to play for in the world. We just do things differently here. And maybe that’s why I’d set such a high standard for a band that embody all that it is to be a Mancunian; unity, comfort and loving great f*cking tunes.
I’d been lucky enough to see New Order at a very emotional gig at Jodrell Bank’s Bluedot Festival, circa 2019. Seeing them so close to Macclesfield, as a life-long Joy Division fan was beyond beautiful (I used to be @joydividing on Instagram for God’s sake). I remember being completely unable to blink away tears, particularly during their gorgeous tribute to Ian Curtis. That setlist was impeccable, and Bernard’s voice, though having never been the strongest, was in relatively good form. I understand that festival setlists differ to headline gigs, of course, and that the band is completely within their right to play whatever the hell they should like and not bow to fan service. But I would be lying if I did not express my disappointment in much of the chosen material. As many are I am predominantly a fan of classic New Order, but I do have a lot of love for 2015’s Music Complete, an album evidently jam-packed with the same melancholic gold dust pumped into even the likes of 1981’s Movement. While the band did play some of their hits, it must be said that a lot of songs were played that I personally would not have chosen for a Heaton Park outing.
For example: ‘Ultraviolence’, ‘Guilt Is A Useless Emotion’, ‘Vanishing Point’, even the stunningly gorgeous ‘Your Silent Face’ (which always leaves me choked up). While all songs I certainly like very much, I noticed crowd reaction appeared to be…well, bored, somewhat. They aren’t the sort of songs one can dance to. I didn’t catch anyone scrambling desperately to get on shoulders for their newest single ‘Be A Rebel’, either. And that is not at all a criticism of playing newer material (I obviously understand the necessity of having to do this!) I just can’t help but feel that it was delivered in a lacklustre manner leaving the audience standing about and waiting for a banger. I think my critique lies more in the order of the setlist. Rather than peppering through the hits, I’d say around six songs in a row were in played in this motonous vein that even the band seemed bored to be performing in a sort of mechanical manner. They were most in their element when playing songs like ‘Temptation’, songs adored by die-hard and casual fans alike, as they were clearly feeling rewarded by the overwhelmingly positive crowd response.
Regardless, as I prefaced with, it was a wonderful evening and everyone was in the highest of spirits. I loved being there. Everyone loved being there. There was a real sense of feeling lucky to experience this, and experience it with strangers who share the same love for the band before them. I do, as I will reinforce, love New Order and still love them in the same way I always have. Perhaps my first time seeing them was miles better in that I had never experienced them before? It’s difficult to comment. While it was a fabulous gig, I do feel Bernard, Gillian and the gang should perhaps consider a setlist re-jig in the interest of keeping fans attention, because when they had us going, they really had us going. Oh, and before this review is done, please let this one sentence be your takeaway – Stephen Morris is one HELL of a drummer. Put it this way. I certainly didn’t Regret seeing him give those skins a damned good seeing to. Get it? Regret? Yikes. I suppose I’ll let myself out…