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REPORT: New Order Live, No Hooky
The Quietus , October 18th, 2011 07:26

Group play in Belgium with Gillian Morris

New Order could be filling stadiums the world over, but instead choose to play two intimate gigs as benefits for their friend the film producer Michael Shamberg, who is seriously ill. Shamberg produced their videos during their heyday, including the famous 'True Faith' video, filmed in their club The Hacienda.

The Brussels concert could be described as a homecoming of sorts: Joy Division spent a great deal of time in Brussels, where the crumbling city hosted a thriving underground. The association was so successful that their label Factory started a Belgian sub-label Factory Benelux that evolved into Disques du Crépuscule, which developed its own fantastic roster of acts.

Now, New Order are rock stars and Brussels is the seat of the European Parliament. The crumbling city has been tarted-up and improved, although much of the cutting-edge has been erased, with the underground moving up the road to Ghent.

The band has shed two members - Ian Curtis to suicide, and now Peter Hook to acrimony. Peter Hook and the Light have been performing Joy Division's two albums around the world, and the other members are not happy. In a recent interview, Hook implied the break was final, and he and the other members simply did not get on any more.

The remaining members strut onto the stage with obvious pleasure. Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, New Order veteran Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman, the bassist from their other band Bad Lieutenant replaces Hook. Gillian Morris, nee Gilbert, rejoins the band for the first time in a decade, making this a significant moment for New Order obsessives of a certain age, which have come en-mass from the UK to see their heroes.

Sumner resembles an older TinTin, his youthful face hosting yellow hair blown into a quiff by a fan for the length of the show. He announces they are delighted to be here and launch into 'Crystal'. By the the third song 'Ceremony', created back when the band made the transition from Joy Division, they are away - confident, tight and on-form and crowd responds.

They run through a couple of their more recent songs come before a string of hits, beginning with '1963', through 'Bizarre Love Triangle', which is a hybrid version containing elements of the revered Shep Pettibone remix, 'True Faith' and finally a triumphant version of 'Temptation' to end the set.

'Blue Monday' predictably begins the encores, but suffers from so much of the sound coming from sequencers - Stephen Morris - the most machine-like drummer in history pores over his drum machine. The final song was something of a shock - a rocking version of Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'.

Sumner joked with a member of the audience, asking if they played bass, a reference to Hook and their troubles. Chapman recreated the distinctive Hook sound admirably, but is the choice of a Joy Division song to end an olive branch to Hook, or a one-fingered salute? Either way, on this form it is a shame the band are not touring more - they clearly enjoyed the moment and their songbook is one of the strongest in the business. Could The reformation of the Stone Roses be the encouragement to Manchester’s biggest export for more?

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