New Order Play With Their Pleasure Zones in Joyous New York City Show
Up, down, turn around. New Order kicked off their new U.S. tour last night with a celebratory sold-out show at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The Manchester goth-disco kingpins are in cocky form these days, after releasing their sparkling new Music Complete in the wake of their nasty split with bassist Peter Hook. Indeed, the tour poster shows the replacement bass guy standing way out in front of the other four, to really rub in the point that nobody misses Hooky, whose signature basslines aren’t tough for the new guy to duplicate. Yet after all these years, it remains profoundly weird to see the geeks in New Order enjoy themselves onstage. Nobody but Bernard Sumner could hold the stage in such a posh venue moaning, “Tonight I should have stayed at home / Playing with my pleasure zone.”
Sumner’s boyish clumsiness is the key to his appeal as a frontman—he sings these songs about as well as any random audience member would, dancing significantly worse, yet that anonymous air is how he nails the mood of an everykid swallowed up in vast dance sounds beyond his comprehension. The way he swoons in “Temptation” is so moving because of how Sumner approaches the dance-floor scene with so much trepidation: What am I doing here? Who is that girl? Is she watching me? Has she got green eyes, blue eyes, grey eyes? Is it too late to run for the exit and walk home alone or am I trapped dancing here with all these strangers? It’s a dance classic no competent dancer could have performed, and hearing the live crowd echo back those awestruck “whoo-hoo-ooo-ooo-ooo” chants is immensely moving.
New York is the city where New Order really found their New — the moment in the early 1980s when the surviving members of Joy Division regrouped after Ian Curtis’ suicide, enlisted the drummer’s girlfriend on synthesizer, and found fresh inspiration in the perfect beats of NYC disco and hip-hop. As Summer explains in his recent memoir Chapter and Verse: “I remember quite clearly sitting in a club in New York one night, around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, and thinking how great it would be if we made music, electronic music, that could be played in one of these clubs.” New Order’s live show is all about translating the vibe of a seedy late-night club to an outdoor European festival setting and then — on a tour like this — back into an urban indoor venue, with hits like “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “True Faith.”