New Order’s Thursday night show at St. Paul’s Palace Theatre was the British dance-rock legends’ first in the Twin Cities in nearly three decades. And boy, could you tell.
The general admission floor was already packed an hour before the band took the stage, while the merch line was so long that it was split in two and required a staff member to act as a de facto crossing guard.
The local anticipation for the gig, New Order’s first of seven North American dates this year, had been growing ever since its $80 face-value tickets ($93 with fees) sold out within minutes in June. When the five-piece arrived at 9 p.m., the 2,500-strong crowd was thrown into a two-hour trance. The energy inside the historic hall was palpable throughout the 20-song set (so was the bass), whether the band was bursting through cuts from its latest album (and best of this millennium), 2015’s Music Complete, or soundtracking dance parties in the aisles with ’80s classics like “Bizarre Love Triangle.”
The group—formed from the ashes of post-punk pioneers Joy Division in 1980 and still led by founding members Bernard Sumner (vocals/guitar), Gillian Gilbert (keyboards) and Stephen Morris (drums)—used the first half of the main set to highlight what they’ve been up to since headlining the St. Paul Civic Center in 1989. Six of the initial eight songs were released in the past quarter-century, including Music Complete highlights “Singularity” and “Superheated,” as well as “Crystal” from 2001’s Get Ready and “Regret” from 1993’s Republic.
Later in the set, it was impressive how well pulsating new tunes like “Tutti Frutti” and “Plastic” fit in alongside such bonafide house anthems as “Vanishing Point” and “Sub-culture.” The delineation between songs new and old is more readily apparent on record, but the concert felt like a scene from Manchester’s famed Haçienda (which New Order co-owned with its record label, Factory, in the ‘80s and ‘90s) no matter what they were playing.
This was, in no small part, thanks to ace contributions from newer members Tom Chapman (he replaced original bassist Peter Hook in 2011) and Phil Cunningham (he joined on guitar and keys in 2001) and a stunning stage setup that featured over 30 lights and a three-panel screen that enhanced each song with unique visuals, which, at times, were as entertaining as watching the music being made.
All eyes were on the band for the last four songs of the main set, though. An extended version of 1985’s mesmerizing “The Perfect Kiss” kicked off this final stretch, followed by a thrilling take of 1987 smash “True Faith.” Next, the surging “Blue Monday” found almost the entire crowd on its feet and Sumner and Gilbert sharing her keyboard by song’s end, while “Temptation” built and built towards its euphoric climax.
“What a great audience,” Sumner said in the middle of a three-song encore of Joy Division material, which included “Atmosphere,” “Decades” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” “We’re overdue 26 years... no, 29 years.”
Three trips around the sun is just a rounding error when you’re talking about New Order sightings in Minnesota. We’re all counting down the days until they rock Minneapolis’ riverfront amphitheater in 2047.
Random notebook dump: Minnesota shouldn’t feel so slighted. On Tuesday, New Order will play the tiny town of Washington, D.C. for the first time since 1986, while this tour’s two Hawaii shows will be the band’s debut in that state.
Overheard in the crowd: “I think they’re going to Hawaii next.” “That’s not a tour, that’s a vacation!”
Your Silent Face
Bizarre Love Triangle
Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
The Perfect Kiss
Love Will Tear Us Apart