Written by David Campos (@magicdave1983)
Live at Ultra Music Festival 2012 : (Miami, FL – 3/23/2012)
My first exposure to New Order came during two separate moments. The first time I heard “Blue Monday” was the famous cover version that was done by Orgy back in 1998, which in turn I thought was a song by them. The second time was when I saw the film adaptation of American Psycho. Patrick Bateman and his 80s yuppie friends went to a dance club to enjoy their nightly shenanigans. Upon the characters entering the club, that is when I heard New Order’s “True Faith” for the first time. It grabbed my attention immediately. The electronic sound was addicting and watching the crowd dance on screen was mesmerizing. The song made the scene so memorable that I have never forgotten it. Suffice to say, it is my favorite New Order song. The origin as to who they were and where they came from was revealed to me in the film 24 Hour Party People, which explores the legendary history of the Manchester music scene and is a must-see for any true lover of music. Following the tragedy of Ian Curtis’ suicide, lead singer of the band’s original incarnation known as Joy Division, they rose from the ashes and re-established themselves as New Order. Bernard Sumner stepped into the role of lead singer, and with exposure to the New York dance club scene of the early 1980s; they evolved into one of most influential bands of the era. After almost 30 years, the pioneering legacy they created continues to resonate. This was clearly evident as they were invited to the 2012 Ultra Music Festival in Miami, which is one of the most famous electronic music festivals in the world.
Living in Miami, I had never been to Ultra Music Festival, let alone see New Order perform. I never imagined I would ever see them at all, but here they were. I went with such an eager and over joyous disposition. It was as if one got exactly what they wanted for Christmas. It was the early evening, 6:40pm to be exact. The sun was on its way down, but still blazing. The festival headliners were not until late at night, so I thought there would be a good-sized crowd for New Order. It wasn’t like that at all. The initial crowd was relatively small. It was strange to me, but it didn’t matter in the end. I was there. The band members came out nonchalantly onto the stage and took their spots. The small crowd cheered authentically. Bernard took the microphone and said, “Ok, here we go. We’re New Order.” They took off with their hit song “Crystal.” It was the beginning of a musical experience that I believed would only be isolated to my iPod or 24 Hour Party People. As the song began, I noticed there was a relatively older, gentleman of a heavy stature and silver beard in the row in front of me. He wore a faded New Order t-shirt from the release of their album Waiting for the Sirens’ Call. He had noticeable tears in his eyes. I figured this man must’ve been in those clubs in the 1980s when the band was in their golden era. They must’ve been a part of his youthful memories. My brother told him this was the first time we had ever seen them. He told us he had seen them about 100 times with a big grin. That number seemed exaggerated, but the joy he had on his face was not.
With the aid of Gillian Gilbert on keyboards, Stephen Morris on drums, Tom Chapman on bass, and Phil Cunningham on secondary guitar, the songs manifested themselves in their glorious 80s sheen, even without the presence of Peter Hook. The somber plight of love found in “Ceremony” had a type of reverence to it as this is one of the last songs that was ever written by Ian Curtis, and was eventually brought to life by the friends he left behind. There was “Regret,” which was one of the songs that remind of my last years in college. I lost it when “True Faith” came on at last. From American Psycho to live and in front of me, this is one I still cannot believe I got to hear. The upbeat dance classic “Bizarre Love Triangle” certainly got the crowd moving. I sung this one with a particular joy and sadness in my heart at the same time. Then, the iconic “Blue Monday”, the biggest selling 12-inch single of all time, blasted across the amphitheater with all its might. I looked back and noticed the crowd had grown substantially and “Blue Monday” had them all moving incessantly. This was exactly what I wanted to see. The finale arrived with “Temptation.” Then it was over. I knew that this performance was a rare treasure that I might never see again. Watching New Order live is definitely one item checked off my bucket list.
What made this performance all the more memorable is because of what happened before the show even started. I was already ecstatic of just knowing I was going to see New Order. How could it possibly get better? Well, by an unexpected twist of fate, I landed the opportunity to interview New Order, more specifically lead singer Bernard Sumner and bassist Tom Chapman! Completely caught off guard, I quickly prepared questions to ask them. With the unexpected awesomeness and urgency of the moment, I expected myself to choke. Luckily, the lads’ friendly demeanor calmed me down almost immediately. One question involved how they saw the dance scene from the start of their career to now. Unexpectedly, they mentioned the significance of the effect Ian Curtis’ suicide had on the band and how they felt lost at first but eventually found themselves. There was a noticeable choke or pause when they mentioned him, which made the interview that much more sincere and special. Overall, they were honest and great story storytellers. I can also say they were jokers as was evident when second guitarist Phil Cunningham did a walk-by interruption.
What transpired for me that day is something truly unique. New Order and their ancestral incarnation Joy Division hold a special place in my life. They have helped me create significant bonds of friendship and family with various people through the mutual love of music. One memory is particularly significant to me. I had mentioned that I sung “Bizarre Love Triangle” with a particular joy and sadness in my heart that day. The reason was because I remembered an old classmate from my college years. His name was Alfredo Becerra. We met each other in the School of Journalism at Florida International University. Both being Television Production majors, we had various classes together. He was an avid fan of Joy Division and New Order just as I was. He was also one of the wittiest and funniest people I have ever met. One of our final projects in our Video Directing class was to direct the filming of a live music video. Needing talent for the project, we mutually agreed to be the singer in each other’s music video. We both chose New Order songs. I asked him to sing “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call.” He asked me to sing “Bizarre Love Triangle” for his. We did them happily and both of us got an A on our projects. It’s one of the best school memories I ever had. We graduated in April of 2008. On April 19, 2009, he died in a car accident. He was 23 years old, the same age as Ian Curtis. If fate had been different, I know he would’ve been in the front row to see New Order, and I would’ve been jamming with him just as we did in class that day. That’s why New Order is special to me: Their music gets me moving and it lets me remember a dear friend, just as Bernard remembers his dear friend.