Photography by Stephanie Vento
Look in any record collection, from one just starting on his or her first pair of cherished headphones, to the seasoned purveyor with a sound system to back this up, and a good $10 says you’ll find at least one copy of “Blue Monday”.
This fact, isn’t just limited to be viewed on music shelves, but in the Guinness Book of World Records itself where it still sits as the Top Selling 12″ of all time.
The irony of this, is that the band actually lost money with each sale of the record, as the cost of the floppy disc inspired, Peter Saville designed cover cost more to make than the record itself.
Some would view this as “poor business choice”, and enough to make any record label boss scream in collective fright.
But the believers of New Order, including Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, fans of the band and the band themselves saw it for what it truly was: a testament to how much the act love what they do, no matter what.
This sentiment has been the driving force of New Order, from 1980’s Manchester to now, where they displayed it in grand fashion, with the passion to back it up.
The act not only made their grand return to the area (last appearing at the 2012 Ultra Music Festival alongside major influence, Kraftwerk), but their first full-length show in Florida in nearly three decades. To top off this already amazing honor, choosing to close out their intimate six date US Tour at The Fillmore.
This gesture did not go unnoticed, with the queue lining up around the block an hour before showtime, and The Fillmore’s already spacious GA pit filled up within 45 minutes of the doors opening, before the band had even began set-up.
A kinetic fervor began, and rather than go wasted, was catered and tended to brilliantly by opening DJ, Whitney Fierce.
Fierce balanced a perfect set of sultry and seductive EDM paying nod to the jungle-house style, to traditional trance and even 80’s mash-ups to a lighter beat, representing the broad range of Miami EDM sub-genres.
As she exited the stage, the crew began their set-up, wheeling in Stephen Morris’ drum-set, and testing the background video screen, which would later be used to treat the audience to a candy-store of visuals.
Looking around at the crowd, you see just how far and wide New Order’s influence has spanned, from the older crowd present in the baby days of their first release, “Movement”, to the parents carrying the musical torch to the next generation, echoed in a couple in one of the aisles who brought their young daughter to her first concert.
Both she, and the patrons of the Fillmore began their epic journey as the lights dimmed and the video screen lit-up, starting a fireworks display of energy and appreciation.
The black and white film, consisting of graceful swimmers getting ready to plunge off the high-diving board, might possibly be the greatest opening film ever as it did exactly what it intended to do: which was keep the suspense level at a wire tight state, waiting for the perfect time to be cut.
As the swimmers plunged gracefully and painfully slowly into the water, the band cut the proverbial concert tension the way only they could, as Gillian Gilbert (synthesizers), Tom Chapman (bass), Phil Cunningham (lead guitarist), Stephen Morris (drums) and Bernard Sumner (frontman) modestly arrived onto the stage.
As a reporter, you’re duty bound to be hyper vigilant; remain 100% unbiased and report it as you see it.
But when you’re watching a band perform at what can be arguably said are in the prime of their third Renaissance, as well as a band that inspired said reporter to represent her culture, and savor music, you can’t help but contain your inner kid and instead release it through a collective shiver of goosebumps.
The band began with “Singularity”, a track from newest release “Music Complete” that both live, and on record, is a symbol of just how far the band have come, setting the bar higher with every release.
Chapman’s performance especially shines on stage, in not trying to emulate or imitate the shoes left by former bassist Peter Hook, but by following the credos of the band: go full speed and play it with your heart.
This sentiment continued with fan favorite “Regret”, featuring a fantastic demonstration of talent by the bassist.
The excellence continued with “Academic”, which turned the venue into London’s Royal Albert Hall, to staples “Crystal” and “586”, the latter met with Kraftwerk style video backing.
The reach of longtime New Order collaborator, Peter Saville (who also designed both iconic Joy Division covers) echoed in the films that continued through the night, such as “Tutti Frutti” (showing marble busts in a bubblegum colored background) and “The Perfect Kiss” later into the night, featuring clips from small films and making the effort to display the name and title of each one. Though a small gesture, goes a long way, a fact that the act have always acknowledged.
This trend continued into “Your Silent Face”, with the band members names coming onto the screen in cinematic credits fashion, emulating the song’s sprawling nature.
When navigating the extremely tricky terrain of fan favorite songs, there will always seemingly be the one grumbler who mutters that the same song has been performed the same way, and why not just do another track? A sentiment some bands themselves even sadly carry, growing tired of the song themselves.
NO silenced the haters and satiated the crowd as they tackled “Bizzare Love Triangle” and, almost impossibly, making the iconic track even better, adding a touch of modernization, and minute tweaks which enhanced the level.
The same treatment was given to “True Faith”, an equally symbolic measure of NO’s 80’s birth, turned into something you might have heard in the Haçienda, all those years ago.
The sonic pleasure zone continued it’s awesome escalation with iconic “Temptation”, bringing a disco ball down from the top of the stage to bring the already impressive light show to another level, as the lights ricocheted to the crowd, jumping to the iconic chorus as the “ooohs” of the song were sung back.
For the new listener, some may not realize just how many forms, and hardships, the band have taken.
From 90’s Madchester club scene, the dissolution of Factory Records, and even the aforementioned departure of Hook, New Order have successfully repeatedly done what most bands can’t pull off once. And that is to continue on, and grow stronger with each turn (this album marking the first record since the 90’s of Gilbert coming back to the fold, a beyond welcomed and epic return) all the while paying respect to what was.
The most impacting of these cycles being the end of what started it all, New Order’s first coming as Joy Division.
In addition to the band arguably putting Manchester and Macclesfield, respectively industrial and working towns, on the musical map, their sound even after all those years, remains inimitable, due largely in part to the chemistry of Sumner, Morris, Hook and Ian Curtis.
Curtis’ deep words and voice caused a ripple effect in what post-punk could be, as well as the quality itself. Sadly, the frontman’s lyrics seemed to be a demonstration of the troubles he went through (diagnosed with epilepsy at age 20, as well as personal troubles), ending in his untimely and deeply saddening death in 1980.
Rather than continue under the moniker, New Order was born, recruiting Gilbert as keyboardist.
This weight, which has arguably haunted New Order throughout, is something that seems fresh, and understandably so, as Curtis’ loss was both profound, and sudden.
The band have never forgotten this, and paid beautiful respect to as they returned from their first encore, leading into a Joy Division set, with “Atmosphere”.
As the Anton Corbijn directed video came on screen, the venue bursted into a massive applause, showing just how many patrons of the band were in attendance.
Hearing Sumner sing the lyrics, the heartfelt sentiment echoing through the band, you can’t help but shiver in the remembrance of Curtis, as his portrait flashed on screen during the video.
From remembrance to celebration, they transitioned into “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, as the band’s mammoth discography flashed by, which would not have been possible without that door opened by four dedicated music lovers in the 1970’s, the visuals once again speaking poignantly as “Forever Joy Division” came onto the screen, the red & yellow lights highlighting this message.
With a peek into the band’s heart, we came to the only part of the night that no one was ready for: the inevitable end.
And as a new and unbelievably even more incredible “Blue Monday” began, you can’t help but beam with pride.
From Morris’ unequaled playing, done with a modesty that he has never quite grown out of, Cunningham’s perfect ease from synths, drum machine and back to guitar, Chapman’s previously mentioned chops to behold, and the on-point Sumner joining the impeccable Gilbert on keys, this is a band that hasn’t changed, throughout their growth.
If you squint, and take a good look, they still are the same people that played this track at the UK festival circuit, still possessing the same vitality, energy, need to please and most importantly, passion for what they do.
The band perhaps didn’t want this night to end either, Sumner saying that they usually ended with “Blue Monday” but since it was the end of the tour, it would include just one more track as it treated Miami to another exclusive (the first being title track of 2005’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call, with Sumner humbly stating to the crowd it was the first time that they played the song live in the area), “Music Complete”‘s fitting and moving closer, “Superheated”, only played in Las Vegas the previous night with special guest, Brandon Flowers of The Killers.
Who, incidentally, derived their name from the drum kit on the fictitious band of the “Crystal” music video.
And though Flowers was not present at tonight’s performance, perhaps this is a fitting way to end.
From The Killers, to Interpol; The Sex Pistols (whom Joy Division opened for) and Depeche Mode (who New Order opened for), there are few bands who can say they’ve inspired generations.
In addition to the “Blue Monday” that is sitting on your shelf, about 30% of the remaining albums and singles on there, would be non-existent if not for the act who successfully connected the rock, and dance genres in a field that seemed a long shot all those years ago.
And yet, with every release, there’s a hint of “Could this be it?”, a message slipped subtly into each release, as well as in the ending track’s last lyrics, “Now that it’s over…”
This isn’t meant to cause panic, or protest; no. But to make you appreciate every moment, as you never know if it may be your last.
And as the band exited, this fervor didn’t go unnoticed, with Sumner assured the crowd that they’d be back.
Lou Reed’s “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” played as the crew began to take down the set and maybe that’s the secret to New Order’s vitality.
The ability to live in every moment, no matter how crazy, no matter how nuts, and appreciate every single beautiful moment in it.
Whether it was the first feather in their respective concert cap, or their 22nd, they’ll be following this sentiment for the rest of their lives.
And we once again have another thing to thank Sumner and Co. for.
Music, and gratitude, Complete.
Photography by Stephanie Vento