British rock band New Order took the stage at Fort Canning Park with an amazing crowd of over 6,000 people on 22nd August. It was their first gig in Singapore, and for 95 minutes, they rocked the stage with their groovy tunes.
Joy Division, as they were known previously, consisted of Ian Curtis as vocalist, Bernard Sumner as guitarist, Stephen Morris as drummer and Peter Hook as bassist. Following Curtis’s suicide in 1980, Sumner, Morris, and Hook, with the addition of Gillian Gilbert on keyboards, formed New Order.
Hook left the band in 2007 and was replaced by Tom Chapman. New Order now consists of Sumner on vocals and guitar, Morris on drums, Gilbert on keyboards and last but not least, Phil Cunningham on guitars.
As the band came on stage and got acquainted with their instruments, Sumner took a moment to thank the applauding fans and gave them a quick bow. His “Hello!” was reciprocated with the same greeting, only several times louder and from thousands of excited fans. “We’re New Order… obviously. And it’s great to finally have made it to Singapore!” If the fans’ earlier response was anything to go by, energy levels were unmistakably high.
Wasting no time, they opened with a shortened version of the beautiful yet haunting instrumental, “Elegia”. Following that, they then launched into “Crystal”, their first single from the 2001 album, Get Ready; all this with the music video being played on an extremely large backdrop screen. Before New Order began to play their signature electronic tunes, they performed more of their older songs, which featured plenty of guitar work that the appreciative crowd enjoyed. “Regret”, from their 1993 record Republic, “Age Of Consent”, from 1983’s Power, Corruption And Lies album, and Ceremony, the Joy Division song which was released as New Order’s debut single way back in 1981, were some of the songs that inevitably had the large group of fans to sing and dance along.
“Isolation”, another Joy Division track, led to the beginning of the transition to New Order’s epic electronic sounds, and the more techno-inclined songs of “5 8 6” and “Here To Stay” left the audience on their feet.
Sumner had – at one point of time during the gig – made a joke, saying that they would be playing really obscure songs throughout the entire show, making the crowd laugh and jeer. However, they did not fail to play fan favorites, “Blue Monday”, and “Bizarre Love Triangle”. It was an amazing atmosphere; this was remarkably evident when the band performed “True Faith”, which saw their fans singing at the top of their lungs along with Sumner.
The fact that New Order’s last album was released way back in 2005 and they have yet to release any new music since, did not deter them from putting on a solid performance. In fact, it was their greatest hits that kept their fans contented as they sang, swayed, and rocked to the band’s evergreen tracks.
Yet, the show was not as perfect as it could have been. I personally found the sound to be very muffled and those standing at the front (like myself) had to cope with the intense treble through the speakers. The equalization left room for improvement; at times it made the leads unclear, and there were several instances when Sumner could not be heard properly. Furthermore, diehard fans of New Order would have definitely missed Hook’s signature bass-lines, regardless of how good Tom Chapman is. Some things are just irreplaceable.
Technical difficulties aside, the concert was fantastic, with New Order playing many of their much-loved classics, and the audience being great sports, singing along with such intense passion and enthusiasm. The vibe was thrilling and fun throughout, and anyone who was there would have, without a doubt, reveled in the excitement of the band’s live performance.
Joy Division singles “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” appeared at the end of the show as their encore songs, ending their 16-song set. I was hoping the band would perform more of their incredible singles, namely “Confusion”, “Fine Time”, and “1963”, but was satisfied all the same with the setlist that night.
The wait for this gig may have been a long one, but leaving the grounds of Fort Canning Park having been completely immersed in New Order’s music for and hour and a half was an incredible experience for me.