Not too long ago, the thirst for live recordings sparked a black market of bootleg cassettes available at local record shops or from your neighborhood music nut that somehow got a hold of all sorts of gems by offering some cash to the mixer board operator at the show. Times have changed, and bands often allow professional tapers to share their music free of charge. These recordings and a various other live videos are only a few clicks away, but despite that availability, a live album curated by the band themselves are often momentous occasions that mark a particular period in a band’s history that requires preservation. And so it is with New Order’s latest live record.
Live at Bestival 2012 is special for a number of reasons. Firstly, every penny earned from its sale will go to support the Isle Of Wight Youth Trust charity, so if there ever was a reason to spend some dough on a live album, this one tugs on your morality stings for sure. The second part to this is that New Order, finally after all these years, have learned to play their instruments properly. The band produced some of the most influential dance music of the 80s with a list of top singles that spanned genres and generations. That being said, their live shows were often awkward, plagued with mistakes and a far cry from their studio recording prowess. With the exception of a guitar string gone wrong in opener ‘Elegia’, Live at Bestival 2012 is probably their most complete live recording to date. The album is also a celebration of their accomplishments as a band, with an impressive track list spanning New Order’s career that really plays more like a greatest hits package.
New Order even elected to include three songs from their Joy Division days, which is both brilliant and disappointing. While giving light to these songs on a live record pays tribute to the places they have been, Bernard Sumner’s vocals does little to emulate the melancholic intensity of Ian Curtis. ‘Isolation’ comes across as a bouncy synth-pop dittie half a world away from its original tormented version. Ditto for ‘Transmission’ and their closer ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Still, judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm, they really didn’t mind – the 50,000 strong can be heard in the background repeating the chorus as a unified force.
The album also features the best live recording of ‘Temptation’ , despite a few squeaks from Sumner’s vocals which fall out of range due to a little uncharacteristic emotion from the lead role. Clearly he was hyped, the band was on, and the crowd lapped up every minute of it.
While it doesn’t rank as an essential live album concert disc by any stretch of the imagination, and even though it’s plagued by a slow start, New Order’s Live at Bestival 2012 will probably stand as their most solid live recording, celebrating their storied career with their best songs from 3 decades of albums. It’s a worthwhile pursuit in that matter alone, the philanthropy of the whole thing helping one to enjoy the record that much more.