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Coachella Week: New Order slays monster crowd at Boulevard Pool

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New Order rocked Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool on April 11.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/erikkabik.com
Jason Harris

It’s only April, but the first candidate for concert of the year danced through the Cosmopolitan last night. New Order owned the Boulevard Pool, throttling a 19-song set that proved why they are one of the most important new wave/post punk/synth pop/any kind of bands ever.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. Peter Hook, founding member of New Order and Joy Division and the bassist who gave so much to the signature sound of both groups, hasn’t been with the band since 2007. While this is lamentable, the choice is either close down shop or move on with a new member. As shown by the enthusiasm of the crowd and by the crispness of their set, NO made the right decision to soldier on. Bernard Sumner controlled the show with masterful guitar work, killer fills and vocals that still hold up. The rest of the original lineup—Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and Phil Cunningham—haven’t missed a beat, synthesizers and keyboards as ethereal as ever. And current bassist Tom Chapman is talented enough to do justice the seminal parts Hook created.

Given the game shape the band is in, it would be almost impossible to knock a set that included hits “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “True Faith” and “Blue Monday.” It would be equally as difficult not to revel in the fact that fan favorites “Age of Consent,” “Love Vigilantes” and “Ceremony” were all included. But you also want some Joy Division songs? How about four of them? “Isolation” and the encore three-pack of “Atmosphere,” “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

An added delight was the background videos playing on the large screen behind the band. These can often be distracting, but NO’s only added to the environment. As the cameras soared through the clouds, we soared up there as well. As they sped through tunnels, NO soundtracked our ride through the cities’ transit roads, and we were fortunate to be traveling with them. “Atmosphere” featured a stirring video that looked like it was out of an Ingmar Bergman film, with black and white knights traveling across a barren desert, transporting pictures of late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. It was mesmerizing.

If the size of the crowd was any indication—the largest I’ve ever seen at the Boulevard Pool by a long shot—then the Cosmopolitan would be wise to bring New Order back as soon as possible. This is a dance party that needs to keep going.

Opener Johnny Marr worked his way through a solid 11-song set that included three Smiths songs: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “How Soon Is Now?” Marr still rips the guitar up and hearing his very Clash-like rendition of The Crickets’ “I Fought The Law” gave the audience a jolt of energy. Original cuts “New Town Velocity” and “Word Starts Attack,” along with Electronic tune—his former band with NO’s Sumner—“Getting Away With It” were fine, but like watching Morrissey live, this was a set that just made you salivate for a Smiths reunion. “How Soon Is Now?” enraptured the large crowd, a notable effort, but one that made us wonder if there is ever a chance those handsome men will ever play together again.

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