New Order, October 19, Roseland Ballroom
On Friday I caught a slightly uneven set by my favorite band of aging Mancunians, New Order. Well, more accurately “75% of New Order” (or “50% of Joy Division” for those who still find that more impressive). Peter Hook’s absence was perhaps noticeable in the fairly low-energy first half of the show, and Bernard Sumner seemed a bit anemic at times. Luckily the night picked up in the synthier, more danceable second half. Stephen Morris’s drumming is as robotically precise as ever, and Gillian Gilbert’s keyboards sounded as amazingly crisp, bouncy, and room-filling as on the studio albums.
All told, I’d rank the experience as better than seeing their contemporaries The Cure or Tom Tom Club (“50% of the Talking Heads”), but not nearly as fun as seeing Devo, who put a lot more effort into their stage show.
The funny thing for me is that Devo sound best live when they put aside their synths and play their early angular guitar-driven post punk — whereas personally I think New Order sound best when they put down the guitars, avoid the Joy Division covers, and just play the synth-heavy hits. If the entire night had maintained the same level of energy as when they played “Blue Monday” or “True Faith”, this would have easily been one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.