The frustration of New Order playing live

Yesterday I was watching BBC at home. Even though I live in Brussels, our TV provider Belgacom, provides BBC1 and BBC2 in their most basic package. This is probably a reflection of the big number of foreigners that live in the city.

For some weeks, the british tv network has being showing some classical moments of their Top of The Pops show where bands play their greatest hits. Last night one of this great moments was New Order playing Blue Monday … live.

Well, I have always been a fan of New Order. My first contact with the band happened in 1994. Back then I still had a very discussable music taste. Well, the Internet was slow and MP3 was taking the first steps. Access to quality material was not as easy was it is today. In my city, Recife, there were three type of radios: The ones playing popular brazilian music, the ones playing easy listening crap and the ones playing international tuntz dance tunes. Shamefully, I stuck to the last one.

I bought the “Republic” album in a sale. One of the biggest brazilian supermarket chains probably was tricked to acquire hundreds of thousand of copies and ended up having to burn them cheaply. “Republic” is not New Order´s best album – but it helped a lot to purify my musical taste from the disposable euro dance to good quality electronic. I started to learn about Depeche Mode, Joy Division, The Human League, Soft Cell and many other – my eyes were open. Thankfully, at the same time, MP3 became popular and the speed of internet connections improved. The sky was the limit (so cliché).

In the end of last year, I was amazed by the news that New Order decided to come back (ok, without Peter Hook) to perform two benefit concerts. And even more incredible was that one of those gigs would be in Brussels! I thought to myself that this was an opportunity not to be missed. Tickets were sold out in 5 minutes, but fortunately I got two.

The reviews of the performance were overall very positive, but I was far from impressed. I do understand that it is complicated to play electronic music live, but overall it just felt so wrong. This was their first songs Elegia + Crystal:

It just felt so out of rhythm, like something was missing. Some will say Peter Hook was missing, but let´s go on. Other pieces, like 1963, were just embarrassing. Really, I felt physically ashamed of this:

Of course, there were great moments like Regret, Temptation and the fantastic Love Will Tear Us Apart, but overall I did not find them so great. I have a colleague from work who attended this gig and he said it was amazing. When I exposed him my thoughts, he told me that they were always sort of weak when playing live. And that was confirmed when I watched Top of the Pops last night. This was 1983, with Peter Hook, when they were supposed to be in their top form:

The band is great and their albums are amazing. They do suck when playing live, but, whatever, I still love New Order.

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