New Order, the seminal, new wave synth-rockers are returning to Miami for a concert this Saturday, January 12th at the Fillmore Miami Beach, and frankly, we should be honored. Not only are their live shows as solid as ever, but they don’t tour that much. When they do, it’s not extensively, yet somehow they always make time for Miami.
As a teenager, I liked New Order, born from the sparse, dark post-punk ashes of famed Joy Division in the early ‘80s, but I never got into them back then. I meant to; I loved their jangly “Regret,” with its refrain of, “…I would like a place I can call my own,” which got incessant airplay in the spring of 1993 (even on lowest common denominator Miami pop station Y100), and somehow hasn’t left radio airwaves since. But I didn’t listen to their past work until my college crush gifted me The Best of New Order CD (…a CD? Yup, it was the ‘90s) for my birthday. That’s when my relationship with the band changed.
You know the album. Stark white cover. Big, blue question mark in the middle? One of many striking album covers graphic designer Peter Saville created for the band. I wasn’t hooked instantly, but my appreciation for New Order grew over time. Peter Hook’s distinctive bass lines, lead-singer Bernard Sumner’s plaintive vocals, and those cryptic lyrics that run the gamut from hilariously awful (“When I was a very small boy, very small boys talked to me) all the way to heartbreaking, evocative genius (“I used to think that the day would never come, that my life would depend on the morning sun”), all eventually gelled, turning my likedom into fandom, and eventually full on fervor. Now, vinyl editions of early albums Low-Life, Brotherhood, et al. are on constant rotation at home.
So, when the band graced Miami with their presence nearly three years ago, I jumped at the chance to see them live. It was worth it. There was a catch. Peter Hook, whose high bass lines were so integral to New Order’s sound, was nowhere to be found, having departed the band acrimoniously a few years prior. I missed him, but as much as he may bitch about his replacement, Tom Chapman’s bass work mightily impressed me that night, bringing the power and energy needed for timeless hits like “Blue Monday” (still the best selling 12-inch single of all time), whose bassline basically is the song. The rhythm section was perfectly buoyed by original drummer Stephen Morris’ scarily precise drum work, and complementing them both was returning member-and Morris’ wife-Gillian Gilbert and her icy synths.
And then there was lead singer, Bernard Sumner. I love seeing him live. People are usually drawn to animated front men. Sumner is anything but. He stands behind the mic as plainly as his vocals adorn New Order’s music. But the man, both vocally and on stage, has presence. That’s partly because he’s kind of cranky. I like that; I can relate. Near the end of 2016’s set, he invited opening act DJ Whitney Fierce to come on stage with him, but after she started grinding on him, he got pissed and ordered her off the stage, flicking her the bird as she exited. Gotta love him.
With strong musical chops, a deep wellspring of amazing hits that come alive due to their amazing playing, and because of the charmingly acerbic Sumner, I can’t wait to see New Order live again, even if it’s again without Hook. Luckily, I and all of Miami will have that chance this Saturday, January 12th, when they return to the Fillmore. It should be an amazing show.