New Order - Bestival 2012 review

'Still a formidable presence on a live stage'

New Order - Bestival 2012 review

Photographer:Jason Downes

John Bownas - 09 September 2012

New Order, even without Peter Hook, are still a formidable presence on a live stage.

Headling the Saturday night at Bestival, the band have pullled a big crowd - and rightly so for the team who can lay claim to having successfully fused the indie and dance scenes to change the face and sound of club music forever.

Stood in a crowd typically made up of people who would have to find two friends and add together their ages to match those of Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris, it is obvious that their legacy has also successfully spanned the generation gap.

Of course, reviewing a New Order show can easily turn into an exercise in reeling off track listings. What did they play, what didn't they play? After all, what is there or could there be new to say about a band that has been creating music for as long as this and who are not in the business of writing much in the way of fresh material?

So the tendency is always to drift into analysing sets based on the balance of big hits and fillers, with the added nuance of the possible (indeed likely) inclusion of some Joy Division material too - much to the delight of some or the annoyance of purists.

What is interesting though is that despite their years and experience this is not a perfectly polished production.

A dodgy guitar chord here, way too much stage smoke there - much to the obvious annoyance of Sumner, who can be spotted making curious hand gestures that are at first easily confused with a strange dance routine, but that soon become obvious as a mimed series of messages to the front desk where the man with his hand on the smoke button is clearly not concentrating as hard as he might.

But of course this is a festival, with only so much under the control of the band. So they can't be blamed for the excessive smoke - in the same way that they can't be blamed for the regularly over-exposed and oddly edited camera-work that sometimes becomes more of a distraction than a help on the big screens.

The set itself, whilst conscious of falling into the song-list trap, is a nicely balanced roller-coaster that kicks off with 'Crystal', winds its way via 'Regret' and Joy Division's 'Isolation', through 'Age of Consent' and 'Bizarre Love Triangle' to the subterranean thunder of 'The Perfect Kiss' and, one hour in, the eagerly anticipated 'Blue Monday'.

'Temptation' is the start of the home straight, and, after not having as much in the way of a cheer for an encore as they really deserve, the closing two numbers are both some of that aforementioned classic Joy Division material - 'Transmission' and 'Love Will Tear us Apart'.

Sumner found his way to the front of the band through convenience more than anything else, and he has still not necessarily mastered the stage-craft of singers who planted themselves in the spotlight through natural talent and charisma.

However his rough edges do somehow lend a slightly personal touch to what might otherwise be a lumbering behemoth of a band. On the big numbers he seems genuinely humbled to have been a part of their creation, and his sporadic atonal screams (especially noticeable on 'Transmission') hark back to the early days when Ian Curtis was the man on the microphone.Overall, the crowd's mood was perhaps more interested than excited, but New Order always made interesting music - so perhaps that is the way it should be.

New Order played:

'Age of Consent'
'Here to Stay'
'Bizarre Love Triangle'
'5 8 6'
'The Perfect Kiss'
'True Faith'
'Blue Monday'
'Love Will Tear Us Apart'

Click here for all our Bestival coverage, with reviews, photos and videos coming in across the weekend, plus the chance to stream full sets from the festival. 

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