A lot has changed for New Order since they last played Los Angeles in 2001. Longtime bassist Peter Hook criticized and subsequently left the band, and in 2009 after their second break-up singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner vowed to never make music again with them. In 2011, Sumner reversed course and the original members of the group — sans Hook — played a few shows for charity before surprising fans with a limited world tour.
On a chilly night yesterday, New Order reminded the sold-out Greek Theatre why they were one of the most influential bands of the '80s. Emerging from the rubble caused by Joy Division singer Ian Curtis' suicide, their blend of post-punk, electronica and New Wave combined to turn them into international superstars, and allowed rock bands to embrace dance music without feeling cheesy.
The second night of their North American tour saw the band play a set of greatest hits with a few Joy Division songs sprinkled in. The multi-colored strobe lights and video backdrop that adorned the stage were better suited for a downtown warehouse party rather than an amphitheatre; yet they managed to turn the Greek into a giant outdoor club.
Fans were on their feet for nearly the entire 100 minute set. Signature tunes like “True Faith,” “Temptation” and “Blue Monday” sounded fresh, and they played with a remarkable precision, especially considering their disruptions.
Back with the group for the first time since 2001, keyboardist Gillian Gilbert's synths laid the foundation for the band's sound, allowing Sumner, guitarist Phil Cunningham and drummer Stephen Morris to settle into a groove. Bassist Tom Chapman replicated their trademark punchy bass lines without error.
Approaching 60, Sumner's enthusiasm and appreciation for the performing hasn't waned, even if his dance moves perhaps have. Though initially a bit awkward and nervous, he moved around the stage with good energy, and got the crowd involved.
“It's a great honor to play here after such a long time. Anyway we're here now,” he said, before launching into “Bizarre Love Triangle.”
Closing with Joy Division's “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the group turned the post-punk dirge into a triumphant tribute to Curtis' legacy. With new material slated to be recorded in 2013, New Order may be beginning an improbable comeback, a new new order, if you will.
Critical Bias: Hearing New Order with Hook would have been optimal, but on this night he wasn't really missed.