New Order had not played in France for more than a decade - since the Montpellier & Lyon shows! The 90s had heard little of them except perhaps for their side projects, compilations and remixes. Their recent album had received laudatory reviews in the press, and was more convincing than its predecessor. But it had been such a long time, the band had almost split and the guys put on some weight and grey hair, Factory had gone bankrupt, the Haçienda had closed down, Martin & Rob had passed away, and nobody could say if Gillian was still part of New Order...
They were at the top of the bill for 2 evenings in a row, at the mythic Olympia for the Inrock Festival. I had not hesitated to buy tickets for both shows though, but I had mixed feelings while I was waiting for them to play in a packed venue, accompanied by Françoise, my younger sister, who had never seen them live before. Were they going to be as good as ever or would I be disappointed? I bought some T-shirts thinking "That is so much to the good!".
Bernard, Steve and Peter arrived on stage, with Phil Cunningham (guitar & keyboard), and Bernard unusually spoke to the audience (!), in french (!!), introducing the band (!!!) before the first song, "Crystal". The sound was immediately clear and sharp, the song full of energy, Hooky as impressive as ever. No time to rest and they played Joy Division's "Transmission", Steve delivering furious drum rolls. I have always been wary of covers of Joy Division's songs - the only time I remembered being totally convinced was at Ian McCulloch's concert in Paris at Le Bataclan in 1990 where he sang "Ceremony" - but the pleasure of hearing these songs played live, the fiery performance made them highly enjoyable, to say the least.
After came "Regret", and then a brilliant "Ceremony" with an excellent Bernard, both as singer and guitarist. New Order appeared to really enjoy themselves, so did the audience, and we were (gently) pogo dancing in the last rows of the stalls. This was followed by "60 Miles An Hour" and "Your Silent Face" with beautiful light effects and Bernard playing this weird instrument. Just a few words from him "It's been a long time ... Not your fault really" and they sang "Atmosphere". Here again, Steve and Peter showed us how good they truly were (and are) and why New Order could survive Joy Division's and Ian's demise...
Another new song, "Close Range", and they played on with "Touched By The Hand Of God" (rather harsh but quite convincing), "Bizarre Love Triangle" (vibrant) and "True Faith" with a kind of remixed intro, only to reach a superb climax with a fantastic version of "Temptation" (great light settings again), which was followed by "Love Will Tear Us Apart". At the end of the song, Hooky stayed alone on stage playing the tune on the bass for a minute or so, and dedicating it ("This was for you...") while leaving.
New Order were back for an encore: "You were a very nice audience, you will have 3 more songs" said Barney, and they played "Rock The Shack", "Ruined In A Day" and "Blue Monday". Then they were gone until the next day, with a sonorous "Au revoir" from Peter.
They had played for an hour and fourty minutes and proved everyone they were back! As a review by Dave Simpson of their gig in Liverpool (18 July 2001) had stated : "When they begin with the immortal 'Atmosphere', from their Curtis-era incarnation as Joy Division, you can almost hear the jaws dropping to the floor over the staccato drums and mournful basslines. "Don't walk away in silence," purrs Bernard Sumner, as several generations of onlookers are wondering how they could have ever doubted New Order".
As I was walking home, I felt I was 15 years younger and that everything was warm.