There comes a time in the life of most bands where the number of live records a band releases is inversely porportionate to the band's creativity, relevancy, and age. The older you get, the less songs there are unwritten, the more of a nostalgia act - by definition - you become, the stranger it gets. After all, New Order have released three live records since their last 'proper' album came out in 2005, and this - after 2007's "Live In Glasgow" CD/DVD, 2011's "Live At The Troxy", - is the fifth full length concert disc released by the band : and the first full release to feature the new, beefed up, quartet without Peter Hook. Hook's duties are acquitted flawlessly by Tom Chapman, and the core lineup is fleshed out by Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert of the bands 1980-2000 configuration, and Phil Cunningham (Gilberts replacement), who joined thirteen years ago. As a result, with a flexible set of three guitars, four keyboardists, and a shedload of lasers as an option, the live disc doesn't sound like one would expect a thirty six year old band would sound. By nature, New Order's music is essentially youthful, a mixture of electronics and electrics, of hope and occasional despair.
"Elegia", benefits from the new expanded lineup, with two guitars adding textures, though perhaps unexpectedly. Normally the next song is "Crystal", but absent (presumably for time reasons), but hardly happily, alongside "Ceremony" and "Age Of Consent" - though all are on the 2011 "Troxy" record - and there is seven and a half minutes space on the disc, enough time for at least one of those songs to be present. On the other hand, the never-played-until-2012 "Here To Stay" is here, and is glorious, sounding akin to an explosion in a pop factory, a full on glam rock electro stomp with rampaging drums, insistent melodies, and the kitchen sink. Alongside this sit more than capable versions of "Regret", "The Perfect Kiss", "Blue Monday", and reworked takes of "Bizarre Love Triangle", "True Faith", ""586", and an interpolation of Lou Reed's "Street Hassle" with an epic "Temptation" - and three Joy Division songs, in "Isolation", "Transmission" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
But then the band strike up the metronomic, gorgeous "Bizarre Love Triangle", or the thundering reworked "True Faith", or the squealing roar of frogs that is "The Perfect Kiss", or the whole crowd as-one singing the keyboard lines and live adlibs of the glorious "Temptation", and it does not matter. Debt, divorce, deception, all these adult things fall away. We have music, we have hope, we have glorious noise, and beautiful things happening. Tom Chapman swings away on bass as if he has always been there, Stephen Morris pounds drum as a human robot, Gillian tinkles chords, the band themselves create a wonderful storm of sound : the kind that makes my world a better place. These songs are bigger than the players, bigger than the name, or the concept of a rigid, unswerving lineup over a lifetime - and who apart from U2 or The Beatles never changed a single member in their lifespan - and more than that, it sounds right. Live albums may not sell in huge quantities, but should you want or need a reminder exactly why New Order are so important to so many people, you could do a lot worse than imagine this music, in a room or a field, with thousands of strangers, making love to your ears, and making you remember why love, life, and laughter are so important. We weren't born to be miserable, or to be slaves to corporations, or to be anything, and here, whilst this may just be a recording of one night, in one field, in the Isle Of Wight in 2012, there is also a glimpse of why this band means so much to so many.