New Order - Coachella - April 13, 2013
When a band writes a single timeless song, nevertheless a catalog filled with them, it generally sounds great regardless of who is singing. Though it may be awkward and even a bit strange if a different member of said band sings it, that doesn't mean it isn't good. That being said, people who waited to see Mancunian post-punk icons New Order hit the stage instead of Phoenix or even Sigur Ros, many expected to hear a greatest hits set and with good reason since New Order hasn't released any material since 2005's ill-conceived Waiting for the Siren's Call (sorry, but January's B-side collection doesn't count). And that's what they got.
The group grooved and turned the Mojave tent in a mini, outdoor version of the Hacienda that served as the blueprint for the electronically inspired bands/DJs of today. Lost in the resurgence of interest in all things Joy Division is that New Order managed to carve out a fine career of their own by fusing alt rock with electronica to rewrite the rules of pop music during the early '80s.
Before the iconic "Blue Monday," the best selling 12-inch of all time, there hadn't been an electronic-inspired song that reached the masses. Thus, lost in the hubbub is that outside of maybe Kraftwerk, New Order helped pave the way for an entire generation of EDM fans across the globe, something difficult to conceive had Ian Curtis not hung himself.
Yes, it was a nostalgic set for sentimentalists, but who cares? Even with the controversial exit of ex-bassist Peter Hook, the band sounded like New Order even if they didn't look it. It would be easy to be upset at Hook's dismissal from the group, especially at this point in their respective careers, but the only time his absence really hit home was when the band took on old Joy Division songs. Even then, it wasn't nearly as terrible as some people made it out to be.
Was it weird seeing Sumner belting out the chorus to "Love Will Tear Us Apart" without Hook's support with his iconic bass line? Absolutely, but at this point, what band is better suited to be a JD cover band than New Order, even if they eschewed that labeling at the beginning of their career.
While the set moved briskly and lacked the fanfare of a certain Chicago area crooner hitting the stage with a French pop band, New Order are still able to make people dance. Though faces may be a bit aged and the dance moves a bit creakier, the songs still sound the same and when push comes to shove, that's what people want to hear. So while there will always be critics, New Order proved that when a band has songs as good as theirs, even some essential parts can be interchangeable. That being said, for the sake of their legacy, hopefully Bernard Sumner and Hook will work things out and one of the most important bands of their time will once again be complete. Otherwise, for better or worse, this will have to do.