Watching New Order rock out at the Hollywood Bowl on Monday night predictably filled my heart with joy and wonder. But it also delivered a huge dose of nostalgia. “We’ve been on tour for two years and this is the last bit of it, so we’re going to play a little longer tonight at this beautiful venue,” announced the band’s founder and frontman, Bernard Sumner. The crowd responded with hoots and shimmies as the band moved into the next beloved tune from a set that music from their four-decade career.
The buzzing energy of the audience was leftover from the opening set by Goldfrapp, whose lead singer, Alison Goldfrapp, served a cold dish of devilish glam rock in a fiery red cape. I definitely picture Alison in her teenage bedroom lip syncing into a hair brush to Kylie Minogue. She owned that stage with a raw force, and her angelic falsetto challenged the band’s danceable bass, welcoming my hips to pop and hands to clap.
The lineup that night was a reflection of the type of music played in my childhood home. Growing up in Los Angeles, raised by two equally stylish and music-loving parents, I was spoon fed gulps of disco, post-punk, ska, and Motown in between doses of Spice Girls, No Doubt, and Mariah Carey. But to say New Order was a soundtrack of my childhood would be an understatement.
I remember my parents would often clear out the living room furniture to create our very own dance hall, with my poor neighbors enduring my repetitive requests for The Jam, The Cure, and of course, New Order. Every lyric of their sophomore album, Power, Corruption & Lies, was at the tip of my tongue — and often written all over my middle school notebook. I was raised by atheists and guilty Catholics, therefore music was everything. It was the glue. So, sitting in the Hollywood Bowl and belting those lyrics out with other die-hard fans while New Order was actually onstage was a pretty epic moment for me.
Opening with imagery of London riots juxtaposed against colorful geometric patterns that danced around the jumbo screens made the show feel like it was transporting us to an ’80s underground dance hall. When combined with the band’s epic light show of teal and hot pink beams and Sumner’s twirl-and-clap dance moves, the visual presentation added another level to the throwback vibe.
The mumbles between every song from the audience dripped in approval from, ‘Wow, they sound so good!’ to, ‘Man, I’ve always loved this song!’ And honestly, that observation was spot on. The band’s quintessential synth-pop melodies and chest-thumping bass never missed a beat. We all swayed in warm fellowship to “Your Silent Face” while Sumner’s melodica pointed north for a solo that painted everyone’s memories of this song into the night sky. On their latest album, 2016’s Music Complete, the band created a heavy electronic dreamscape. At the Hollywood Bowl, they infused older tracks with the same gravitas, making for a cohesive mix of past and present.
Closing out the set with “Temptation” was the epitome of perfect timing. You know when that familiar feeling resurrects from the bottom of your heart? It can best be described as comfort. Well, that feeling of comfort came back for me when this song came on. While images of the late Ian Curtis flashed on the jumbo screens, everyone around me had their hands up and sang along and out of tune. It all sounds so cheesy and emotional but it was just like church for me. It reminded me of sitting passenger side in my best friend’s 1986 Pontiac Bonneville with my hand out the window waving in the wind while we drove through the night. It was the perfect timing for a reminder to pause everything and sing loudly with your friends once in a while, no matter what else might be going on in the world.
When when the riff began for “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the Joy Division tribute encore, I wasn’t the only one who started to cry. Love can do the damage it does, but the music will always keep us together.