On Friday October 5, UK new wave heroes New Order kicked off their 2012 North American tour at a packed Fox Theater in Oakland, California. Initially formed as Joy Division in Manchester, England in 1976, New Order (minus original bassist Peter Hook) treated the Bay Area to a lengthy set covering the group's impressive career.
The Los Angeles based indie band Run Run Run opened the show with a set of danceable garage rock songs and a cover of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You." Lead singer Xander Smith was clearly honored to be opening for the legendary New Order, asking the crowd, "I mean, how would you feel?"
After a brief intermission, the lights in the Fox dimmed and New Order took to the stage to "Elegia" from the 1985 album Low Life. The audience cheered for Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert before they launched into their 2001 hit "Crystal." The song's infamous video (it was the inspiration for the Killers) was projected on a screen behind the band. As the night continued, we were treated to classic New Order videos like "True Faith" as the music was played live.
The set list spawned the band's entire career, from the earliest songs like "Ceremony" and "Age of Consent," to their synthpop hits like "Perfect Kiss" and "Bizarre Love Triangle." The set even featured some songs that I didn't expect to hear but considered a pleasant surprise -- "5 8 6," "Close Range" and "Here to Stay."
The members of New Order may be in their 50s, but they can still put on a great show. Sumner plays with a lot of energy, occasionally foregoing the guitar to dance around with a microphone. Morris' drumming style is still reminiscent of a drum machine. Gilbert looked almost ethereal standing behind her synthesizer in a flowing white top. Marion guitarist Phil Cunningham and Bad Lieutenant bassist Tom Chapman round out the band.
Some say that the ghost of Ian Curtis will always haunt New Order. At the merchandise table, fans could purchase t-shirts featuring the iconic Unknown Pleasures album artwork and others simply stating "Forever Joy Division." Joy Division's "Isolation" was included in the set.
The encore was dedicated entirely to Ian Curtis' memory and Joy Division's legacy. During "Atmosphere," Anton Corbijn's heartbreaking video played behind the band as the audience cheered for Curtis. Towards the song's end, Sumner turned around to play to the screen and pay tribute to his late band mate. The encore ended predictably enough with "Love Will Tear Us Apart." More images of Ian Curtis and Joy Division flashed on the screen ending simply with the words "Forever Joy Division." It was a moving end to a stellar show.
As I filed out of the Fox Theater into the cool Oakland night air with songs like "Temptation" ringing in my ears, I knew that I had just witnessed part of history -- an iconic group playing songs loved by millions and paying a tasteful tribute to their post-punk beginnings. Sure, it wasn't the New Order of the '80s but I had just been lucky enough to catch a show by a legendary band. New Order's North American tour continues through October in the following cities:
10-10 - Denver, CO - Broomfield 1st Bank Center
10-12 - Dallas, TX - Palladium
10-18 & 19 - New York, NY - Roseland Ballroom
10-21 - Chicago, IL - Aragon Ballroom
10-23 & 24 - Toronto, ON - Sony Center