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By STEVE STANLEY
“We’re sorry to have brought Manchester weather with us here to Los Angeles,” quipped frontman Tom Ogden of the opening septet Blossoms on Wednesday night. It was obvious that Ogden — appearing like a cross between Nick Drake and Mike Scott of The Waterboys — was thrilled be on the bill at Inglewood’s YouTube Theater on this rainy night, as he affectionately mentioned the headliners several times during their set of well-crafted, guitar-based indie rock.
The headliners were, of course, New Order, playing a show in advance of Saturday’s appearance at the sold-out Darker Waves Festival in Huntington Beach.
Without question, New Order/Joy Division have one of the most compelling stories in music. I actually can’t think of another band who reached their level of acclaim, lost their creative figurehead/lead singer to suicide, renamed/reimagined themselves, and emerged exponentially more commercially successful. Formed after their attendance at the now-mythical Sex Pistols gig on June 4, 1976, at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, the group — since 2006 without original bassist Peter Hook — is nearing their golden anniversary. Stylistically, they have always been schizophrenic — sometimes melodic, guitar-driven pop, and other times dance-oriented futurism, as evidenced by their biggest hits.
They presented both variations last night, awkwardly opening their set with “Crystal,” a latter-day U.K. Top Ten hit that, in this live presentation, lacked focus and a strong melody. Following with the anthemic “Regret,” one their best singles, the quintet started to find their groove, and the packed house reacted emphatically — most not sitting back down for the remainder of the set.
The country-tinged “Age of Consent,” and the elegiac, Kraftwerkian “Your Silent Face” from 1983’s “Power, Corruption & Lies” were well-received, as was their shimmering debut single “Ceremony,” which was penned by their previous incarnation shortly before vocalist Ian Curtis died in May 1980. Joy Division fans were also treated to three other songs from their catalog, including “Isolation,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Atmosphere,” which was accompanied by a moving film backdrop.
The other club-oriented hits, “The Perfect Kiss,” “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “True Faith,” kept their fans singing along and dancing, as did their career-defining 1983 worldwide smash, the Giorgio Moroder-inspired “Blue Monday,” often referred to as the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. (Apparently, the band lost money every time a copy sold due to the expensive die-cut packaging of the sleeve, which mimicked the appearance of a floppy disc.)
There were times when lead singer Bernard Sumner struggled with the keys of some of their songs, several of which were a stretch for his vocal range. (New Order were always a band that sounded far superior on record than on stage.) Nevertheless, he appeared genuinely happy to be sharing his music with his adoring fans, and may have peaked vocally on 1982’s “Temptation,” which included a very subtle “Street Hassle” tribute to Lou Reed. He ended the two-song encore by strumming a final chord, bowed, took off the cherry SG, and began walking away … and then turned around, put the guitar back on one more time, just to strum that very same chord again. It was an amusing end to an unusually drizzly night in the City of Angels.
Setlist: Crystal, Regret, Age of Consent, Ceremony, Restless, Isolation*, Your Silent Face, The Perfect Kiss, Be a Rebel, Sub-Culture, Bizarre Love Triangle, Vanishing Point, Plastic. True Faith, Blue Monday, Temptation. Encore: Atmosphere*, Love Will Tear Us Apart*. (*Joy Division song)
Photos by Stevo Rood / ARood Photo