Following Ian Curtis' suicide in 1980, the remaining members of post-punk's darkest band, Joy Division – guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris – dusted themselves off, brought in keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and quickly became New Order. Eschewing its doom lyricism but not the distant atmospheres of their former sound, New Order became New Wave pop's chilliest electronic dance band with hits such as "Celebration," "Temptation" and "Blue Monday."
New Order continued this groovy electronic trajectory until Gilbert left in 2002 and the entire band splintered in 2006 — only to reunite in 2011 without Hook. Now, with their first new album in a decade (2015's "Music Complete"), New Order returns to form, sounding fresh, funky and over-the-top. Gilbert spoke from New York City during sound check for the band's Radio City Music Hall gig.
You were the new face when Ian Curtis committed suicide. He was iconic. Did you feel weighty responsibility then, and how does that carry on to what you do at present?
It was a big dark wave. I have a lot of ups-and-downs about it still. When I joined, the band was in a fragile state. I had never been in a group before — it was a dream of mine, really – so with New Order, it was as if we were all just starting. As they were part of a songwriting team to start, that was solid, but they did listen to me. They were open to my suggestions and I had ample opportunities. Eventually I did more and more, but I was always called an apprentice. Now, I think I've finished my apprenticeship.
When you first left New Order, people didn't realize that you were the electronic heart of the band. What pre-mediated your leaving in the first place?
During 2001's "Get Ready," we got rocky, concentrated on guitars, really. I had just had a second baby, things got stressful at home. So I left, with everything going on in my life; coming back has just been a happy coincidence.
Did you ever listen to the album — 2005's "Waiting for the Sirens' Call — that you aren’t on?
No, it's not my cup of tea.
Was there a stipulation when you rejoined that New Order would return to electronic music, or was that just where Sumner's head was?
I think he wanted to return to electronic music — he's the singer. He has to like the track. If not, you won't give it your 100-percent. So, it was a conscious decision. It was only supposed to be a few gigs in 2011, but we started doing more shows and finding younger people at festivals really getting into the dance side of New Order. That, in effect, encouraged us to do more dance tracks. Now we sound more like New Order than we used to. We're re-born in a way.
New Order isn't known for being heartfelt, but there are interesting tender moments on "Music Complete" How did they come about?
"Restless" is our emotional adult-listening side, isn't it?
Does it matter much that Peter Hook is gone and have you heard his New Order songs live?
Just some things on YouTube really. He's his best tribute band, really, so good luck to him.
IF YOU GO:
March 12 at 8 p.m.
69th and Ludlow Streets
$55, $59.50. 800-745-3000, Ticketmaster.com