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Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL, United States of America (2005)

New Order rocks the Aragon!

Here is my humble review of the concert at the Aragon last night (May 3, 2005, Chicago). This was my 6th time seeing them, and I must say it was probably the best show I have ever seen. I could only fly out to one show this go-round, and I am glad I picked the Chicago show to attend, because it was probably the best yet of this tour.

We arrived early, around 6:30, just as they were starting to let people in. There was already a huge line, but we were still able get a good place up front, right in front of Phil (I’ve been right in front of Hooky before, so I thought I would try stage right for a change). There were about 5 people between me and the stage. The taped warm-up tunes were great, such as Dépeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”, Blur, and the Scissor Sisters whacked out version of “Comfortably Numb”.

The venue reminded me a lot of the Alexandra Palace in London where I saw them play an amazing New Year’s eve gig in 1998. The Aragon is done up old gothic style, although the acoustics are not so great, apparently (although from where I was, it sounded pretty damn good!)

New Order came on looking poised, relaxed and confident. Barney thanked the crowd, and apologized that he was not very mobile tonight because of his foot injury. He jokingly said he hurt his foot while surfing in Los Angeles, bitten by a shark! (Of course the real story is that he hurt it while doing his jig during BLT in Oakland).

Great set list!

1) Love Vigilantes was a great opener, the crowd loved it. I love that melodica. After the song, Barney said something like it was about Vietnam, where he had served… as a photographer. Barney was very nice to the crowd, lots of joking banter between songs, which I (and the crowd) appreciated. I couldn’t catch all of it though, because he didn’t always speak right into the mic. He was generally very relaxed, thanked the crowd for their support. He said it had been too long since they had been to Chicago. He jokingly said he would come more often but these two f**kers (pointing at Hooky and Phil) don’t like to tour!! Of course we know Barney is the one who doesn’t like to tour. He also mentioned that they were getting happier as they got older, they were no longer the miserable sods of youth. He said he liked Chicago, since it was cold like Manchester, not too hot like LA.

I thought 2) Crystal fits better here, earlier in the set list. This track is starting to turn into a classic live track, lots more energy and crowd recognition now compared to the 2001 tour. 3) Regret was great, as always.

4) Hey Now What Your Doing was OK, the crowd was not familiar with it, which is understandable since it’s only been out a week here. This was the only song I couldn’t recognize instantly, and now I realize (listening to the bit-torrent) that it’s because they played it too fast! Now I get Barney’s joke that it was the “pumped” version, and that Steve was addicted to crystal meth, and hotel porn also!

5) Krafty was better, more people seemed to know it. I would say Krafty came across best of the new stuff.

6) Transmission was great live! After the song, Barney said “enough of that Rock shit, we’re going to play a dance tune now… although I can’t dance because of my foot. I’m getting it amputated tomorrow. So I’m having my anesthetic tonight.” I loved his slightly corny jokes, it really added to the laid back atmosphere.

7) True Faith: they played the 98 version, as per usual during the last few years. There seemed to be a technical glitch with the drums here. I saw Steve trying to get his tech’s attention before the song, saying his drums were cut out. I think that the main drum-beat is programmed for this song, but Steve would normally supplement it with some live drumming. Unfortunately, they turned down the mics on his drum set, so you couldn’t hear his live drumming for this song. It was kind of distracting but thanks to Barney singing with gusto (not to mention Hooky’s great backing vocals) it sounded good anyway.

8) Run Wild: Barney introduced this song half-apologizing that it was such a slow song, but he wanted to play it because he thought it was a good song. Although the album version is a bit too sappy for my tastes, admittedly it came across much better live. It was kind of unique to see Hooky play a love song. I guess it’s OK as a change of pace.

9) Jetstream was good, although the backing female vocals were canned. They played it like on the French show a few weeks ago, without Anna’s main female vocal, but only the taped backing vocals.

10) WFTSC: I agree with Barney that it’s the best song on the new album. Although good live, I think Barney had his own backing vocals canned for Sirens, which was a bit distracting. Maybe Hooky should try doing the backing vocals here….

11) BLT was also very good. There was a bit of feedback on Bareny’s mic at the beginning, so he said “feedback” during the intro, so they turned his mic way down, and didn’t turn it up again until the second line, which is why you didn’t hear “Everytime I see you falling”. Didn’t matter, everybody was soon singing along louder than Barney. Including Hooky, who yelled in the mic, egging the crowd on. Towards the end of the song, Barney got his roadie “Roger” singing with him, and let him sing a couple of lines on his own. I must say, Roger was pretty darn good! Barney joked that he should let Roger finish the set.

12) LWTUA – simply awesome. Hooky screaming into the mic “C’mon Chicago!”

13) Temptation – this and LWTUA were the high point of the show, the crowd went nuts, everyone sang along. Sounded fantastic. Hooky was sweating profusely, and at the end of the song, tore off his shirt and walked off bare torso with the rest of the band.

After a short break, they came back on, and Barney asked if we wanted to hear Atmosphere or Your Silent Face. YSF of course! Inexplicably, the cheering was about equal so Barney said “well I guess we will play both then”. I thought to myself, well, they have been playing well over an hour now, so I guess they finally axed Blue Monday off the set list! (Which I didn’t really mind because they always complain about having to play it).

14) Atmosphere was good, but maybe a bit too slow and moody to work well as a live tune. I was yelling out for them to play Ceremony instead (keep the tradition of 2001 alive, what the hell). Others around me joined in, but to no avail of course. (By the way – Ceremony live is simply incredible! Once you have seen the way they play Ceremony live, you will never forget it. So much energy and power, not like the studio version. Check out the little snippet of Ceremony from New year’s eve 1998 on the 5 11 DVD, under the extras– unfreaking believable live, trust me, I was there. Anyway, I digress.)

15) Your Silent Face – what can I say? Classic New Order, beautiful, simple, perfect. Love that melodica. Hooky pulls out the big old 6-string for this one, and I love that bass line.

So I thought, well, that’s the last song, right? But wait, no!

They played 16) Blue Monday! And without complaining about having to play it! Somehow, that made it sound way better! Plus Barney on synthesizer added in the Kylie Minogue sample “Can’t get you out of my head” near the beginning, hilarious. (Kylie does a mix of her song using the bass and drum line from BM, so touché!) Unfortunately, Barney seemed to re-injure his foot towards the end. He finally started to try his trademark jig with a bit more vigor during this song, but landed a bit awkwardly. I saw him grimace, and he had to limp very gingerly and in some pain back to the synthesizer to finish the song. Then goodnight!

Hooky (who now had on a black official merchandise NO T-shirt), tore off his shirt, tossed it into the crowd, and walked off bare torso again.

All in all, simply magnificent. Best yet! They really gave it their all. Barney was in fine form musically, and you have to give him credit for playing such a long set despite his foot injury.

Hooky was simply amazing, incomparable. There is no other bass player in his league, especially when it comes to raw live energy. He did the whole bass-god thing with even more gusto then ever, which is hard to imagine. Roaming around the stage from one far end to the other, sweating profusely. He played his bass so low that it really WAS scraping the ground on numerous occasions. I love the way he would eyeball into the audience, pirate-like. Plus all his trademark moves, that only he can do authentically (anybody else would look so Spinal Tap). Words cannot describe how awesome it is too watch him go at it with so much energy.

Simply a perfect set. Except of course, if they could throw in Ceremony. But they played for 1 hour 45 minutes (until 10:30), which is very good, considering their history of short sets.

Unfortunately, I can’t make it to New York (or Europe this summer), but I hope and pray that they return to North America in the fall so I can see them again soon.

Source: NewOrderOnline.com (Robert Roy)