The New Order Dilemma…by Alan Gregson

For the past few years, New Order fans have had a bit of a dilemma, do we follow the main body of the band, do we follow Peter Hook & The Light, or do we follow the third way and like them both.

A couple of years ago, Hooky very publicly fell out with the rest of the band, so the longest running split in music history became permanent. It seemed at the time that New Order were no more.

Hooky started to plough his own furrow, he had a new band, The Light, and he is clearly having a lot of fun touring small venues. They have some new material, but mainly they’re touring entire albums, firstly the Joy Division material, then starting this January he’s been touring New Order’s Movement & Power Corruption & Lies albums with associated singles. He’s done some work on the tracks, they’re still obviously New Order, but they sound a little different.

hookyI had the immense good fortune to attend the Manchester Cathedral event in January, braving the snowy M6 on the way down, and oh my was it worth it, 2 hours of magnificence to match the surroundings. He’s made the New Order material that little bit rockier, his vocals are no match for Bernard Sumner’s, but they still fit the songs.

You can download the whole gig on MP3 from Play Concert –

Like many others, I was certain we’d seen the last of New Order when Hooky split and started touring. The last shows in 2006 were not exactly triumphant, the tensions in the band were evident, and the gigs were workmanlike at best, Waiting For The Sirens’ Call is definitely their poorest album, recent interviews with Bernard Sumner have revealed the problems during the recording, with Hooky intent of following a career behind the decks and only turning up with his bass when absolutely necessary.

So in November 2011 when New Order announced a gig at short notice at the Troxy in London I was straight onto Ticketmaster and managed to secure two tickets in the 30 or so seconds they were available. This London date followed a pair of benefit gigs in Belgium for Michael Shamberg, and was apparently hastily arranged to pay the crew for their work on the benefit gigs.
The Troxy is an unusual venue, a former cinema with two levels of tiered seating separated by a level of tables that look like they’ve come straight from the nearest Gala Bingo. The seats in the circle were clearly designed for people with no legs, so we stood right at the back near the bar, amongst all the other people who couldn’t fit in their seats.

I’m not ashamed to say that as the first strains of Elegia filled the hall I had a tear in my eye, and looking around I wasn’t the only one. 3,000 Mancunians who’d made the trip down to London were all of one mind, “New Order are back, thank fuck for that”. As they kicked into Crystal it’s like they’d never been away. It was immediately clear that the split had rejuvenated the band, this is the best I’d seen them since the 2001 tour for Get Ready. Tom Chapman is a more than adequate replacement for Hooky, yes his bass doesn’t fill the hall like Hooky’s but it’s still a good sound.

Barney said that the gig, along with the Michael Shamberg benefits, had to be arranged in secret, as Hooky had made legal threats against the band., the short films that accompanied the songs had been made in a couple of weeks by Barney and his son.

For anyone not fortunate enough to be at the gig, you can buy it on CD or download from Last year’s Bestival performance is going to be available soon with money raised going to the Isle of Wight Youth Trust.

So getting back to my earlier point, which way do I swing, so to speak? I’m for the Third Way, I’ve seen both bands live a few times in the last couple of years, and the split has obviously done a world of good to everyone. Hooky his having fun playing intimate shows, and his format of playing entire periods of output is interesting, and allows him to reinterpret a whole album in one session.
New Order are also having fun, but in a different way, they’re playing medium sized venues in the main, I wonder if this is because they’re unsure of the size of their following, but if James can fill the Manchester Enormodome I’m pretty sure New Order would fill it in a heartbeat. Some of the songs have been reinterpreted, but most are played straight, but with passion now, instead of their “we’re only here for the money” tour of 2005/6.
It may seem a little selfish, but I’m loving having two x New Order, now roll on July 7th when we’re off to see New Order at Jodrell Bank, supported by Johnny Marr, should be a stunning day.