From the getgo, I was filled with doubt. First of all, the cost: $74. The last time I saw New Order in concert, it was seven years ago and twenty bucks cheaper, and it wasn’t that cheap then. Secondly, the venue: Roseland Ballroom, which I’d never been to but read online that it was not the optimal place to see a show. But I wasn’t getting any younger, and certainly the same could be said of the band. Not only were some members on the back nine of their fifties, but one of them, the bassist Peter Hook, had left altogether after an acrimonious split.
But I bought the ticket and said to myself that this was it. This wouldn’t just be my final New Order concert, it would be my final rock concert, period. This wasn’t some grand gesture or sacrifice on my part, as I’ve only really seen three rock concerts in my life, and two of them were New Order. And truth be told, I hadn’t really loved either of them. There’s entirely too much waiting around, first from the DJ spinning some music, then the opening band that nobody ever cares about. And by the time the headlining band takes stage, your ears are already ringing.
Most people know of New Order through three songs: “Blue Monday,” the best-selling 12” (vinyl single) of all time; “Bizarre Love Triangle,” which people have danced to if they went to college between the late ‘80s and the early-to-mid 90’s; and “True Faith,” a fairly popular single that was featured in the movie adaptation of Jay McInerny’s Bright Lights, Big City. Bernard Sumner is their lead singer, and he’s got what I’d call a studio voice – perfect for the confines of the glass cube to extract his vocals, but live and on stage with everything blaring, his words get a bit lost in the music. Still, the point is not to have the man sound like his CD – the point is to see them live and revel in their liveness.
The first time I saw New Order, it was in Giants Stadium, and our seats were way in the back. The second concert was held at Hammerstein Ballroom, and I sat upstairs and watched the show from the mezzanine. This time, since it would be my last one, I decided to get as close as I could, which meant I’d have to stand with everybody else. I went with a friend, so when the opening band came on stage, we made our way to the middle of the pack. Win Win was the name of the band, and although everyone wanted these poor guys off the stage as quickly as possible (you could just feel the impatience running through the crowd), they held their own and weren’t half bad. Behind them hung a huge projector screen, and they played rave-like screen saver videos, which seemed odd to me. If I can be the cranky old guy for a moment: in my day, it was enough for the performers to perform without all of these moving images.
When New Order finally came on, around 9:30pm, everyone who was holding a smartphone turned it on to either take a photo or record a video. As much as I’d like to bemoan this lemming-like response, I can’t, as I was one of them. It was almost comical to see all these little screens held up above the owners’ heads, tiny beacons to capture the stage. New Order started the gig off with an instrumental, which seemed like an odd choice, but it was a tribute to Michael Shamberg, a filmmaker who was close to the band.
With each song, the crowd inched forward. Personal space, which was lacking to begin with, shrunk even further. As people pumped their arms and pogo-danced in their limited area, the temperature in the room rose. I started to sweat. Everyone started to sweat. Bodies were banging into me, and I suppose I was banging them back. I don’t know, because I was dancing, too, and singing and screaming! There was a girl to my left and a guy to my right, and I have no idea who they were, but outside of my wife, I have never been so physically close to other human beings for such a length of time. By the time “Temptation” played, a huge fan favorite and a great dance tune, the ballroom felt primal. The body heat, the human musk, standing shoulder to shoulder with total strangers – it felt a little out of control, a bit like that scene in the second Matrix movie where people are dancing crazy and beads of sweat fly off everywhere – and and you know what? I kind of loved it. Never have I felt such closeness to this band I’ve loved for more than twenty years, nor have I ever been so aware of people who enjoyed them as much as I did. These were my people! Though maybe not all of them – at some point, a guy came barreling through, telling everyone to dance harder, dance harder! And he took turns putting his arms around people, including me. This was a bit much, but thankfully, he kept pushing through to offer his gift to as many concertgoers as possible.
My final rock concert was a sweaty, messy, loud affair, and somehow that was a good thing. It felt not quite like my final — but rather my first. An ending that might very well become a beginning.
4. Love Vigilantes
5. Age Of Consent
6. Here To Stay
7. Your Silent Face
9. Close Range
10. Bizarre Love Triangle
12. True Faith
13. The Perfect Kiss
14. Blue Monday
17. Love Will Tear Us Apart
For New Order fans, some specific stuff:
- Nothing from Technique or Republic, which was disappointing. Sometimes I wonder why they bother to play songs like “Here to Stay” or “Close Range” — few people know or care about those songs. At the same time, I do remember being very happy that they played “As It Is When It Was” back in 1993, so maybe I should shut up.
- Both “Temptation” and “True Faith” seemed like unique arrangements; they both sounded fantastic.
- I really missed Hooky’s bass. Tom Chapman did a nice job, but only Hooky has that warmth.
- I was thinking the crowd would be between 35 and 50, but I’d say half of the people looked under 30. Nice to see New Order has a fanbase that still speaks to the youngins.
For better pictures than the ones I took below, and for a more thorough review of the concert, check out these two links: