Show Review: New Order @ Austin Music Hall (7/19)

Let’s take a moment to reflect. New Order and (by inevitable association) Joy Division have been a massive influence on what I listen to even now. Recent songs shared here from bands like Flaamingos and Knifight could easily be tagged. Substance is standard issue listening, isn’t it? How could it not have an impact? So to see New Order, an elusive bucket-list band, announce the first North American show of their tour would be in Austin – well, it was a big day.

…and then I got the approval email to shoot the show. My head nearly exploded.

Holy Ghost! opened, added win. Read on for gushing fanboyisms and plenty of pics.

Let’s talk venue. Much has been made of the Austin Music Hall over the years, much lamenting. The building was scraped together, corners cut to the detriment of the Austin show goer. We did an interview not long ago with the team that took on turning the Hall into a viable venue, finally. So far, so good. There are still kinks to work out – a few weak drinks, GA tix are upstairs and down which led to fire code one-in one-out on the floor, bar placement will always be troubling. But the good is that the sound is much better; a lot can be forgiven when you have good sound. We were right in front of the sound board and from that spot, it was great. Now, I will note that I recognized the nice lady running the board for New Order from better sounding shows at Stubb’s for Mogwai and Two Door. So part of the compliment surely goes to her ear, but you have to have something to work with. I do not loathe going to Music Hall anymore. That is high praise.

Honorable Mention: Manchester club scene veteran DJ Little Martin played tracks after doors and between bands to keep the mood.

So Holy Ghost! was a great pick as an opener. They are a comfortable listen for the many fans of New Order that bought tix for the nostalgia, but may not be on point with newer artists. You can go in cold to a Holy Ghost! track and be comfortable and dare I say it, dance a little. I would say that the band did what they needed to do to win fans; I heard quite a bit of “those guys are pretty good” while milling about. Personally, I loved their set. They played the hits, but offered up a “Dumb Disco Ideas” as the new jam. It kind of sucks when you are not ready to unleash new material and asked to tour with a big headliner, but when New Order calls, you go. I told my friends from outside my music bubble they would love Holy Ghost! and they did.

You probably know all the recent history between Peter Hook and the rest of the band. Whatever.

Dear Peter,

I know you greatly influenced the band’s sound with your signature bass playing, but you can be replaced. Tom Chapman played bass in Sumner and Cunningham’s Bad Lieutenant project and while Tom may not have had your perfection, he got damn close. Sorry bro. The reality is that you guys need to figure out how to squash the beef because we all would rather see you up there with the rest of the band that includes Gillian Gilbert again, but you weren’t missed by my ear.

ATH IT Department

Graced by a giant LED panel to provide visuals surrounded well sorted light show, New Order took the stage to play the instrumental “Elegia”, but interrupted the start to make note that they are no longer afraid to be in Texas because of Austin (or something to that effect). Seems everyone went shopping while in the state; Stephen Morris had on a Hi, How are you? tee, Thompson a cowboy hat and Sumner and Cunningham were rocking skull emblazoned snap shirts. Gillian looked less than thrilled to be on stage, which means she was exactly as she was back in the day. A recent song, “Crystal”, was next, but the show didn’t really kick off for the rabid fans until the ringing chords of “Regret”.

The band knows the crowd wants the hits. While I have a few faves that weren’t played, the hits did not disappoint. Sumner’s voice was solid, a few higher notes and sustained octave-up runs fell short, but far better than the vocals from most nostalgia bands currently touring. Make no mistake, there was dancing in the photo pit for “Ceremony”. We were escorted out to stow cameras to “Age of Consent”. I was dragging my feet like a four year old to make sure I got to hear all of the song. I missed “Isolation” and a most of “Love Vigilantes”. Sad face.

Jumping ahead, “True Faith” was the song I thought was weakened by new arrangements, but the experience was redeemed by the big screen showing bits of the video (I want a puffy suit and trampoline). The end of the regular set landed a left hook square in the fans’ faces with “Perfect Kiss”, “Blue Monday” and “Temptation”.

The encore was a tribute to Joy Division and Ian Curtis. His portrait showed up on screen as “Atmosphere”, “Shadowplay”, “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” got us all misty and hype at the same time. “FOREVER JOY DIVISION”, the backdrop read. The wife mentioned post show that if Hook is to be believed in his recent book, Ian and Bernard did not get along. So was it a tribute or just pandering? I don’t care. I thought it was awesome.

More pics at the photo site

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