Instead, it was a benchmark for Ultra's ultimate booking muscle and its massive importance on the local concert landscape. Let's be real -- when could you ever expect to see both New Order and Kraftwerk on the same night in Miami, of all places?
So for diehard fans of either, Ultra's Friday night alone was worth the cost of a festival ticket. (Well, OK, at the early-bird price.) Especially considering the unexpected perks of this year's location at Bayfront Park.
Though it's smaller than Bicentennial Park, creating the need to close down Biscayne Boulevard and extend the festival boundaries onto the street, Bayfront comes equipped with a proper amphitheater. Organizers did the wise thing and set this up as the festival's Live Stage -- and the layout of the park demanded that the huge, booming areas -- like the Carl Cox Arena and the Main Stage -- be put far away.
So the effect of seeing a band at the Live Stage was like a private concert-within-a-festival, and though Benny Bennassi was pounding away simultaneously to New Order's set, you could remain blissfully unaware of it.
And bliss is, indeed, what ensued, even if New Order currently lacks what many would consider an essential element of the band -- bassist Hook and his trademark high-necked rhythmic playing. It's a damn shame that intra-band conflict means New Order now tours without him. (Though it seems like most of that conflict is coming from Hook's corner.)
These days, bass duties are handled by Tom Chapman, who's also the bass player in New Order spinoff group Bad Lieutenant. He fills in Hook's shoes ably, though mostly by getting the notes right and not taking up too much of the spotlight.
Though Hook's gone, there's a pleasant surprise in the addition of original band member Gillian Gilbert, who played synths and keyboards in the group's early days. Original drummer Stephen Morris still holds down the rhythm section while second guitar comes courtesy of Phil Cunningham, who, maybe a bit confusingly, originally joined New Order as Gilbert's replacement.
Of course, though, on vocals, there's still Bernard Sumner, whose inimitable mid-range still sounds much as it does on the band's classic albums.
Those, plus Gilbert's classic tinkling synths, and the almost-sunset light gave the entire affair a sweetly surreal feel. Well, that and the all-ages, all-stripes variety of the crowd assembled.
It sounds corny and kumbaya to say it, but the assembly of fans happily dancing was one you could only find at this kind of festival. There was everyone from neon-painted rave kids to a healthy dose of hardcore fans who appeared to date from New Order's original go-'round. Who doesn't like "Blue Monday," anyway?
Yes, that mega-hit came late in the set -- though not, to the band's credit, at the very end. As it was a festival set, too, most of the song selections were the biggest hits. That meant even some fan favorites ("Age of Consent!") were regrettably but necessarily absent, the only deep-ish cut coming in the form of the unexpected "5-8-6."
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Sumner and company did a commendable job of packing in as many classic tracks as possible, keeping banter to a minimum and letting quiet euphoria fill the air. Sumner's longest sentence pretty much summed everything up: "You're in a beautiful place in a beautiful country with New Order on stage. What else could you want?"
New Order's Setlist:
-"Bizarre Love Triangle"
-"The Perfect Kiss"