25 Aug 2013
New Order @ Williamsburg Park live review 
NEW ORDER @ Williamsburg Park, Brooklyn, New York

NEW ORDER @ Williamsburg Park, Brooklyn, New York 7/24/2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that being in a band involves a significant amount of drama. With so many opportunities for conflict (albums, gigs, credits, royalties, who ate the singer's muffin), platinum-selling superstars and teenage chancers alike are guaranteed at least a few bumps in the road. With plenty of strong personalities, accidents and incidents alike and a healthy dose of money and publicity, history is filled with bands whose real-life soap operas become infinitely more compelling than, say, the music itself. Just look at Metallica's therapy sessions, or the entire career of The Libertines, for proof.

New Order, it might seem, should know this better than anyone; rising from the ashes of critical darlings Joy Division and continuing onto club ventures, drug problems and intra-band conflicts, theirs has been a turbulent and endlessly fascinating career. What often gets overlooked, though, is that they're also responsible for some of the finest indie-rave anthems either side of the Atlantic; tonight, then, is their opportunity to remind us, the masses gathered in Williamsburg Park, of that fact.

With no new material from the band's recent reformation in sight, opener 'Crystal' sets the tone with the original video, featuring the fictional band The Killers, playing on the screens behind them. Lest we forget, it went on to inspire a little-known Las Vegas quartet, and that says it all: tonight is nothing less than a Great British Band(TM) cementing their legacy with style. Frontman Bernard Sumner knows it; despite sporting a broken leg, he appears relaxed and jovial, and his voice, notoriously hit-or-miss live, is on fine form through triumphant renditions of 'Regret', 'Ceremony' and 'Age of Consent' - if there's any complaint, it's that the band at times seem to be having more fun than the audience. Perhaps this cooler-than-thou Williamsburg crowd are simply more restrained than your average beer-drenched UK gig-goers, but it's not until they bust out Joy Division's 'Isolation' that the pogoing starts.

But it proves impossible to resist such an arsenal of shimmering electro-pop anthems - as the sun goes down, 'Here To Stay' and 'World' soar and 'Bizarre Love Triangle' feels almost like a religious experience, the crowd singing as one as lights flash and the heavens open. The joyous atmosphere only grows; 'True Faith' is predictably magnificent, pumping fists and flickering strobe lights turning the wide open space into a rave. 'The Perfect Kiss' is gloriously uplifting, and 'Blue Monday''s stuttering drums and pounding beat sound as revolutionary today as they did back in 1983.

Inevitably, we can't ignore all that aforementioned history; an all-Joy Division encore, at a different time, could be risky. But New Order have more than earned their right, and the crowd certainly aren't objecting; 'Transmission' becomes a club anthem surprisingly effortlessly, and 'Atmosphere', with the field singing "don't walk away in silence..." as one while images of Ian Curtis float across the screen, is a moving tribute. It could only end with 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', inducing a flailing, uproarious singalong at stark contrast to the melancholy lyrics.

But that, in the end, seems very appropriate for tonight. History's a powerful thing, and it makes for great stories. Ultimately, though, it's great songs - songs that connect and uplift and inspire - that live forever. It's these songs, regardless of events and names and places, that deserve to be remembered, and it's these songs that make tonight a celebration. Tonight, New Order remind us that love may indeed tear us - and them - apart, but, with music, there's always a way to pick up the pieces.

AUSTYN KING

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Many thanks to Austyn for the review. Check out her music writing blog at heartintoapopsong.tumblr.com

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