Despite their ups and downs, British band New Order reflect on their history and enduring appeal

We reflect on the British band’s history and enduring appeal ahead of their regional debut in Dubai on Friday.

Hits by British band New Order, formed in Manchester in 1980 out of the ashes of Joy Division, include Blue Monday, True Faith and Vanishing Point. Photo by Nick Wilson
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Few bands can sustain a four-decade career without revising the original blueprint, and New Order are no different.

Having broken up and reformed twice, and having finally released their first album without bassist and co-founder Peter Hook (2015's Music Complete), they are shaking up the format of some of their upcoming gigs.

The word is the band will collaborate with visual artist Liam Gillick and classical musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music, when they perform at the Manchester International Festival in the United Kingdom in June.

As great as that sounds, New Order's frontman Bernard Sumner issued a small warning recently when discussing with The Guardian newspaper the event and the "micro-deconstruction" of the band's songs it involves.

"Can I make it clear the shows won't be anything like our normal sets?," said the singer. "There will be no Blue Monday [and] no Love Will Tear Us Apart."

If you are a diehard fan of the hits, then, it might be a relief to learn that the band’s gig at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Friday will be more traditional. The core 2017 line-up – Sumner, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham – will play many of New Order’s biggest and best hits at the Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

Formed in Manchester in 1980, New Order were born out of a very necessary reinvention.

Sumner, drummer Morris and the larger-than-life Hook were all part of the intense and foreboding new-wave act Joy Division. But when frontman Ian Curtis committed suicide in May 1980, his grief-stricken bandmates were forced to lick their wounds and regroup.

Renamed New Order, and with keyboardist Gilbert on board, the group soon fused their in-built punk sensibility to a forward-looking electronica.

With some reluctance, Sumner became their singer, with a voice the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant recently described as having “a boyish naivety [and] no rock-star ego”.

Like fellow Mancunians The Smiths, New Order knew the value of distinctive record-sleeve design. They even had their own test plant and nerve centre: Manchester nightclub and music venue, The Haçienda.

This legendary hub of the "madchester" scene, as documented in Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, was co-owned by New Order and largely financed by the group's record sales.

In 2007, after a quarrelsome South American tour, Hook – who had been friends with Sumner since they were 11 year olds at Salford Grammar School – left the band, taking with him the distinctive, melodic bass lines that had been an integral part of the New Order sound.

Hook's candid 2016 memoir Substance: Inside New Order did not skimp on vitriol directed at his former friend.

It also revealed fascinating information about Blue Monday, the 1983 New Order song that became the best-selling 12-inch single of all time.

By Hook’s account, an even better version of the song was lost forever after a studio mishap. When the kettle lead that Morris had used to power an expensive drum machine came loose, it caused the machine to dump days of inspired programming.

You could argue, therefore, that the version of Blue Monday we know and love is essentially a patch-up job.

Other New Order classics, including 1987's True Faith and 1989's Vanishing Point, cemented the group's position as the masters of a distinctly fretful-sounding euphoria. It was a sound perfectly in step with the highs and lows of their home city's club culture, but up ahead were countless hurdles.

The Haçienda closed in 1997 having lost about £18million (Dh82 million), and the band’s manager Rob Gretton died of a heart attack at the age of 46 in 1999. In 2001, Gilbert began a decade-long break from the band to focus on raising the two daughters she had with Morris.

Prior to the release of Music Complete, you would probably have to go all the way back to the single World in Motion, the official song of England's 1990 Fifa World Cup campaign – and New Order's only UK No 1 single – to find the group sounding utterly carefree. Frisky songs such as Tutti Fruiti and the piano-led People on the High Line have an unmistakable spring in their step.

Sumner in particular sounds as though a weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

Those who attend the gig in Dubai will witness a band reborn, one that has somehow survived for almost 40 years against all odds.

“New Order have always looked forward, both musically and culturally, so taking our tour to Dubai makes total sense to us,” Sumner said of the band’s first performance in the Middle East.

“It’s been a long time coming, so we’re looking forward to exploring and playing to a new crowd.”

• New Order are performing at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Friday from 8pm. Visit for more details