“You’re gonna love this song… maybe, maybe you won’t”? Eh? Of all the differences between New Order and Joy Division the biggest one in a live setting is that Bernard Sumner’s MC position doesn’t work. Back with Joy Division the guitarist could drift into the background and allow the emotionally battered and epileptic apocalyptic Ian Curtis to take over. Curtis was a godhead post-Punk who along with Mark E. Smith defined after punk as artistic command. In 40 plus years Bernard has still failed to step up as leader in any sense except commercially. Maybe that is the most important thing you can do for a pop band but it isn’t on stage and it wasn’t last night. It is a long way from “who remembers Rudolph Hess?” to “thank you so much for coming out for us…”
If opening and between acts the hugely popular DJ Paul Oakenfold is all but invisible and therefore not a contender as he spun Talking Heads, Culture Club and deep house, that would leaves Neil Tennant who has always been a bit iffy as leader and spokesperson for Pet Shop Boys. In the precisely timed four hours of 80s sounds taking us from 7pm – 11pm, we managed to see not one great frontperson. Despite all the hits Pet Shop Boy (22 top ten singles) and New Order failed to ignite because they couldn’t sell the songs.
The audience were mostly couples in their sixties, the woman sitting next to me kept on hitting in the face as she danced and apologizing and giggling that she was 24 years old again she did it again; typical of the audience on a nostalgia trip. The 1980s were the worst decade for the rock era popular music (though the 2020s may end up being a stinker) and the proof is in synth bands, the music not doctored with enough so it has that almost robotic sound and the sound is the same. It has aged in ways that pure disco, with its constant waves into hip hop, hasn’t.
At 7pm Paul spun for half an hour but he was tethered to the 80s and it wasn’t prime Oakenfold. New Order arrived at 730pm and Bernard, who is 66, looks exactly your grandfather if your Granddad came from Salford; he can’t dance and he can’t much move, and the rest of the band, Steve Morris on drums seriously augmented by beats and Gillian Gilbert on keyboards, are invisible. Original bassist Peter Hook was slung out of New Order and now performs entire Joy Division and New Order albums at much smaller venues and was replaced by Tom Chapman, and Macclesfield lad Phil Cunningham is on lead guitar. The material was great when they reached back tp Joy Division with “Ceremony” (no, cmon of course it was JD), “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” -a pleasure to hear even if not whatever it once was From New Order the powerful “Age Of Consent” with the hook you really wanna hear, no not “the birds and the bees” but “I’ve lost you” and the overwhelmingly great “Temptation”. But despite the light show and the flashing pictures on the LCD it was just mediocre nostalgia.
Pet Shop Boys have a major back catalog and they mine it well if not that well (no “Go West”? Unacceptable.), with a barrage of hits at the beginning with “Suburbia,” “Can You Forgive Her?,””Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money”), Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)” and “Rent” with the line of the 80s, “look at my hopes, look at my dreams the currency we’ve spent, I love you, you pay my rent”. If this doesn’t bowl you over then the set certainly won’t and doesn’t. Neil is a pop maestro of the 80s who went from editing the synthpop bible “Smash HIts” to “West End Girls”. But on stage the band were all distancing effectives and cool smartness. With lasers aplenty on top of stagecraft hijinx and a secret door stage that expands seven songs in, but all the skills in the world couldn’t save Chris Lowe’s back up tapes, synths and programing from sounding, well, programmed, and if ever a voice could use Dusty Springfield somewhere or the other that voice is Neil Tennant.
This has always been a problem for Neil and Chris, that and the level of both gay politics (in an age where it wasn’t merely a sin but a crime on the UK) and cultural me generation anthems to irony and so much so that when Neil and Chris want to get romantic they tend to perform covers like “Always On My Mind”. The latter was a huge hit remix into disco synth pop though it didn’t really fit the song and it doesn’t today. There is something a little meh about Pet Shop Boys on stage, it covers the Garden but if it so great why is the earth not moving the way it did for Pearl Jam earlier in September? It felt old.
the song is a vulnerable and lovelorn admittance of struggles
If you are a teen or twenty-something woman give it a go
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – October 1980 (Volume 12, Number 5)
I haven’t had sex with half the guys I’ve been out with
“owning your own dysfunction and the people who benefit from it”
The White Buffalo is at the Regent Theater
from Dermot to Nickelback is a highway to hell
seven days later she falls to earth
emotional vocals crooning over a gently plucked acoustic guitar
nostalgia as the last exit to oblivion
The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 11-25-22 – 12-1-22, Jimi Hendrix And Zayn’s “Angel” Reviewed
I can’t see how it can be a hit but it sure deserves to be