New Order may be one of the most important bands in dance music history. But their reputation when it comes to the live stage has always been a little more shaky, which perhaps explains why even their most ardent fans will probably approach this recording of last year’s headline appearance at Britain’s biggest boutique festival with a certain sense of trepidation.
A charity release designed to raise money for the Isle Of Wight Youth Trust, Live At Bestival 2012 suggests Bernard Sumner is still competing with Stone Roses’ Ian Brown for the title of Manchester’s most out-of-tune frontman. However, if you can get past the admittedly significant problem of such painfully flat vocals, then this 13-track collection serves as a rather enjoyable alternative Greatest Hits.
Indeed, spanning the best of their back catalogue, from the rumbling post-punk of 1982 single “Temptation” right up to the swirling synth-rock of their last UK Top 10 hit, 2005’s “Krafty,” Live At Bestival 2012 only highlights what a great singles band New Order have been.
“Blue Monday” and “True Faith,” both are which are performed here in their seven-minute versions, still sound ahead of the curve thirty years on, and the driving indie-pop of “Regret” is as anthemic as anything that arrived during the whole Cool Britannia era shortly after. Meanwhile, a beefed-up take on The Chemical Brothers-produced “Here To Stay” proves that New Order’s ability to effortlessly straddle the worlds of dance and indie didn’t disappear with the fall of the Hacienda.
The decision to perform three classic Joy Division tracks will divide opinion as much as ever. Sumner undeniably lacks the intensity of Ian Curtis to do the doom-laden “Transmission” and gothic rock of “Isolation” any real justice. But it’s hard not to get caught up in the celebratory moment when he encourages the 50,000 crowd to sing-along to arguably their finest hour, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
Despite the acrimonious departure of Peter Hook and absence of any newly-recorded material in eight years, New Order obviously still seem hell-bent on keeping the bandwagon rolling. And while Live At Bestival 2012 is by no means essential, its faithful re-creation of their glory days shows that at least the band still recognise what made them so great.