Gig review: New Order at The Piece Hall, Halifax

“It’s been a strange couple of years, but let’s do a bit of catching up tonight,” says Bernard Sumner as New Order arrive onstage for their first appearance in the spectacular surroundings of Halifax’s Piece Hall.

Bernard Sumner of New Order onstage at Halifax Piece Hall. Picture: The Piece Hall

The band – which the exception of drummer Stephen Morris – may be clad in black but the two-hour set that follows is anything but sombre. Backed by arty projections, their performance is enhanced by a laser and light show that makes dazzling use of the venue’s vast Italianate courtyard.

A varied setlist embraces many aspects of their long career – even in the encore running to three of the finest moments from Sumner and Morris’s previous band Joy Division. They start impressively with Regret, wryly accompanied by footage of cowboys being flung around a rodeo ring, before rewinding a decade to 1983’s bass-heavy Age of Consent.

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In the absence of Peter Hook, now replaced on bass by the more understated Tom Chapman, it’s left to guitarist Phil Cunningham to provide classic foot-on-monitor poses during Restless and Ultraviolence, both of which are notable for the forcefulness of Morris’ drumming.

New Order onstage at Halifax Piece Hall. Picture: The Piece Hall

After the wiry post-punk of Ceremony gives way to Gillian Gilbert’s lush keyboard soundscapes in Your Silent Face, Sumner observes: “It’s quite weird being up here onstage after all this time – for everyone, not just the band, I’m sure.”

As the frontman ditches his guitar, the mood shifts. Tutti Frutti is highly danceable; so too is Be A Rebel, their 2020 single, that seems to gain extra perkiness in a live setting.

Guilt Is a Useless Emotion follows, but New Order really hit their stride with a run of classic 80s hits that starts with Subculture then leads into Bizarre Love Triangle and Vanishing Point. The more recent Plastic, from their 2015 album Music Complete, is adrenalised fun before more crowd pleasers arrive in the shape of True Faith, Blue Monday and Temptation.

They end with a victory lap through Joy Division’s Atmosphere, Transmission and Love Will Tear Us Apart, with the large audience singing along raucously, closing as joyous a return to live music as anyone could wish for in difficult times.

DJ Tin Tin warms up the crowd before New Order come onstage at Halifax Piece Hall. Picture: The Piece Hall