Tuesday 1998-12-29 12:00:00 AM
  Manchester, England, United Kingdom
  Evening News Arena
  N/A, Capacity: N/A
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Tuesday 1998-12-29 12:00:00 AM, Manchester, England, United Kingdom

2Touched by the Hand of God 
5Guilty Partner 
7Heart & Soul 
9Bizarre Love Triangle 
10True Faith 
12Love Will Tear Us ApartEncore
13Fine TimeEncore
14Blue MondayEncore

From New Musical Express

It's not really a rave, despite the starry DJ line-up and baffling umbrella title, 'Temptation'. It's not really a collective New Year party either, despite the space-age light show and scantily-clad trapeze artists.
Maybe some people arrived early for Lionrock's dubtronic stomp, which is affable enough but low on thrills. Many more will linger late to catch Underworld's slick technoid minimalism, with its stunning multi-screen backdrop and Karl Hyde's hyperactive shouty gibberish. But in truth, most of us are here to catch the last great shambolic amateurs of post-punk modernism. The finest closet romantics of the machine age. The Mancunian Kraftwerk, playing only their second show in five years. As at Reading, New Order are introduced by an 'ironically' crap Northern cabaret comic. Bernard botches his intro, the first of many such bungles, then bullies the silken sighs of 'Regret' into a lumpy din with his bellowed vocals and Hooky's bludgeoning bass. An impressive act of sabotage considering this is probably the finest British pop song of the '90s. In fact, significantly, this is their only tune from the past decade.

Cap'n Hook is all in black from his freshly dyed crop downwards, pulling bass-monster poses like a man half his age. Rather like the choice of vintage '80s New Order and Joy Division covers, the effect is strikingly nostalgic. The arrangements seem equally retro: not so much a sleek Utopian disco machine as a rough-edged rock combo still struggling with their new electronic toys. Guitars are highly prevalent and turned up loud. Even Gillian spends more time strumming strings than stroking keyboards. It's like acid house never happened.

'Touched By The Hand Of God' has been retooled and loaded with extra Wagnerian schadenfreude. Then 'Guilty Partner' from 'Technique' is aired for the first time ever, a grim study in infidelity and dependency which stumbles after 30 seconds and requires a clumsy relaunch. 'Paradise' exposes New Order's secret country'n'western heart, all criss-crossing guitars and elemental emotions. Even the mighty 'Bizarre Love Triangle' is a carnival of miscues and bum notes. Still, at least it induces a lengthy bout of Bernard's one-legged chimp-dancing, first seen at Reading, which never fails to amuse.

For all their wilful sloppiness, though, New Order play with a passion and bile they haven't shown for at least a decade. The Joy Division numbers are especially charged, from the primal rumblings of 'Atmosphere' and 'Ceremony' to the fraught claustrophobia of 'Isolation' and 'Heart And Soul'. No amount of fall-outs, piss-takes or perverse self-sabotage can blunt the purity and power of this immortal, monumental music. After years of hiding from their mythic past, New Order are learning to treat it with the grudging respect it deserves.

"It's all downhill from here," promises Bernard as the extended house mix of 'True Faith' finally turns the Arena into one huge dancefloor. He's half right too, because New Order just don't feel like a party band tonight. They finish with the daft Fat Harry White growl of 'Fine Time', a mechanical 'Blue Monday', a jagged 'Temptation' and a brutal 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' doused in chainsaw guitars. But they leave us with mixed emotions: elation, deflation, iconoclastic apathy and half-realised majesty.

New Order have reclaimed their title as British rock's most erratic elder statesmen, speeding from banality to brilliance in the space of a heartbeat. They sometimes disappoint, often delight, but never take the obvious route. Perhaps that's all we can ask of them. It's enough.

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