Atmosphere in Athens
New Order at the Ejekt Festival in Athens, Greece Saturday June 3, 2006:
1) 10,000 young Greeks singing along in joyous perfect pitch to set opener ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart,’ confirming that 25 years’ ubiquity on, this may still be the most beautiful song ever written.
2) Bernard Sumner’s twin tele-prompters, complete not just with the lyrics, but chord changes and reminders of impending ‘guitar solos’. (Fortunately, there’s a second guitarist on stage to play such solos.)
3) Peter Hook’s cheerfully clichéd stadium rock antics. How did someone famously so obstreperous ever get to become Mr. Agreeable?
4) Stephen Morris’s syn-drum kit. Sounds as good as the day Martin Hannett first recorded it.
5) Bernard’s announcement that they will be playing a “veritable green salad” of songs tonight. A what?
6) The inclusion of ‘Transmission’ and ’24 Hours’ from the Joy Division back catalogue, and rousing renditions of ‘Perfect Kiss,’ ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and ‘Temptation’ from New Order’s dance floor daze.
7) That endless topic of tour buses worldwide – “are New Order total crap live?” – is by this stage of the game, in 2006, entirely irrelevant. They are what they are: a trio of middle-aged men who’ve moved beyond hating each other, beyond trying to better themselves, and into the realm of all 40-something rock stars – playing their old songs for “the kids” and having a blast in the process. (And, of course, getting paid handsomely for the privilege.)
8) Three songs from last year’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call – the title track, ‘Turn,’ and ‘Krafty’ –suggest that album is better than we suspected.
9) The group’s first ever live rendition of that album’s finale ‘Working Overtime’ indicates it still had its duds.
10) Hearing ‘Ceremony’ from Peter Hook’s perspective when the bassist goes for yet another walk-about on the now-vacant Stage B, and the monitor engineer turns his wedge around to our feet and leaves it there. (It helps that we happen to be standing on Stage B.)
11) Bernard shouting “Muchos gracias” to the crowd. Bernard, we’re in Greece, not Spain!
12) The crowd, like the view: Just beautiful.
13) Ending with ‘Blue Monday.’ How can I legitimately despise indie DJs from New York to London to Rio for playing this song every single club night if New Order themselves can’t stop doing so?
14) Hooky banging the syn-drums with his elbows during this masterpiece.
15) Sumner’s rare moment of release as he dances like a child through same song.
16) No ‘World In Motion’ – despite all the England shirts in the crowd and the World Cup only a week away.
17) Do you realized New Order recorded ‘World In Motion’ four World Cups and 16 full years ago?
18) Peter Hook remembering to sign a t-shirt thrown his way two songs after first asking for a ‘sharpie.’
19) Bernard leaving the stage with the words, “Thank you, you’ve been a great audience.” (At least he didn’t say “Muchos gracias” again.)
20) Seeing out the two-hour set with ‘Shadow Play’, a song whose origins on 1979’s Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures predates almost every one in the audience. After singing along to every song, the crowd is suddenly silenced. I don’t know if that quite constitutes a risk on the group’s part, but it was a great ending anyway.