New Order Sweep Through Favorites in Oakland Tour Opener

From Rolling Stone:

To the rousing bravado of a vintage Ennio Morricone spaghetti western theme and a battery of flashing white lights, New Order took the stage at Oakland’s Fox Theatre Friday night for the initial show on their first North American tour in seven years. Since their rise in the Eighties, the legendary post-punk English dance band have rarely performed stateside: Even now, the ensemble, currently expanded to a quintet, is only playing seven U.S. shows in six cities, plus another two in Toronto. “It’s great to be playing America again,” exclaimed uncharacteristically outgoing singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner to fans lucky enough to have scored tickets for a show that sold out in less than 20 minutes. “Here we go!”

But instead of immediately slamming into one of their timeless dance-rock anthems, the current incarnation – Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris, guitarist Phil Cunningham, returning keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and new bassist Tom Chapman, the replacement for Peter Hook, who split acrimoniously with the band in 2007 – gently launched into “Elegia.” The band wrote the mournful 1985 instrumental waltz in memory of Ian Curtis, the late Joy Division singer whose 1980 suicide prompted his fellow band members Sumner, Morris and Hook to carry on with Gilbert as New Order. It was a gentle, eloquent statement, one of several throughout this particularly emotional show that both mourned and celebrated Curtis. It also provided a dramatic contrast to the storming next song, “Crystal,” the band’s 2001 return to Joy Division’s guitar-based beginnings. Chapman played in Hook’s characteristic style, alternating on his bass between aggressive riffing and much higher, more soulful lead melody lines.

“See if you can guess what this is,” Sumner teased before the ensemble launched into New Order’s very first single, 1981’s “Ceremony,” which the demonstrative crowd greeted with one of many eruptive cheers. Gilbert switched instruments to assist in the new arrangement’s three-guitar climax. Although much of the evening’s lighting kept most members in club-like shadows, with strobes and diagonal beams cutting across the stage like a giant moving tangle of pick-up sticks, a light from above stayed fixed throughout on Gilbert, who last year in Europe played her first shows with the band since 1998. It was a subtle reminder that one of the key ingredients in Joy Division’s transition to New Order was the introduction of an understated but essential female presence. The absence of Hook’s menacing low-slung-bass stance combined with the return of Gillian’s elegant synth parts and almost unprecedented enthusiasm from Sumner meant that this was a decidedly friendlier New Order.

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