While over at the main stage, the bulk of the Coachella crowd was enduring Phoenix with the hope that Daft Punk would come out -- they instead got R. Kelly -- a smaller but perhaps more enthusiastic crowd got a first-rate greatest hits set from New Order Saturday night.
Bernard Sumner, the group's frontman, apologized immediately for their infrequent live appearances. They prefer to spend their time relaxing and enjoying life rather than working, he noted, which is perhaps not the world's most rock 'n' roll sentiment but echoes a theme of "Regret," which they performed in a familiar way.
New Order hasn't released any material since 2005's Waiting for the Siren's Call, so it wasn't a surprise when they blasted through well-known tracks like "Bizarre Love Triangle," "Crystal," and "Blue Monday."
Does the group still get credit for carving the blueprint for the electronically inspired acts of today? It's hard to hear their influence, in, say, Major Lazer, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. Without question, they re-wrote the rules of pop music during the early '80s. "Blue Monday," after all, is the best-selling 12-inch of all time.
Yes, it was a nostalgic set for sentimentalists, but who cares? Even with the controversial exit of ex-bassist Peter Hook, the band sounded like New Order even if they didn't look it. The only time his absence really hit home was when the band took on Joy Division songs.
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So, yes, it was a bit discomforting to hear Sumner sing the chorus to "Love Will Tear Us Apart" without Hook's iconic bass line. (Though not traumatizing like it was hearing Johnny Marr performing Smiths songs without Morrissey.)
The best part of the New Order show? The group is still able to make people dance, and not just the people who are high. And not just the older folks either; their Coachella crowd was full of young people, and the songs still affected them like their (gasp) parents.
Our hope? That Sumner and Hook work things out. New Order is one of the most important bands of their time and we hope they can be again complete. But, if not, this will certainly do.