No Regret: New Order discuss early-’80s Boston riot in Swedish documentary on ‘Blue Monday’


New Order’s Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, during happier times, in New York City, 1981. Photo by Eugene Merinov.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he New Order concert experience as we currently know it is a grand, orchestral affair. Even without the talents of founding bassist Peter Hook, the Manchester electronic pop trailblazers pull from more than 30 years of material, often playing for nearly two hours, complete with religious tribute to Ian Curtis, the late Joy Division singer whose suicide in May 1980 paved the way for the group’s re-formation. Last summer at the Bank of America Pavilion, New Order skillfully ran through their catalog like seasoned professionals, with each song sounding larger than ever, and the closing encore saluting Curtis was a moving and well-crafted tribute.

But in the early ’80s, things weren’t so smooth. During one of the first stateside New Order gigs in Boston, a riot broke out after the then-post-punk band had only played for a half hour or so, trudging through early material and a one re-christened holdovers from the Joy Division era, “Ceremony.”


In a 2013 Swedish documentary on “Blue Monday,” which the band had just promoted earlier this week, Bernard Sumner shed some light on the so-called Boston riot, which we believe happened at the Channel in Fort Point in November 1981. (New Order’s first Boston gig, at the Underground in Allston in September 1980, seemed to go off without a hitch).

UPDATE 12:16 p.m. EST: Some older Bostonians who were there have chimed in that there was “no riot” at the 11/81 Channel gig (at least to their knowledge). So let’s open it up to the floor — add in any info to the comments!

According to this gig description at new-order.net, tensions in the audience were already high during the performance, with complaints about the mix being apparent and the drum machine actually stopping at one point. The last line, about the band not saying one word to the audience, is a nice segue into Sumner’s comments in the documentary. He’s come a long way from last summer, when at the Pavilion Sumner joked that he’d be a Boston duck boat driver if he weren’t in New Order.


Brad Searles of Bradley’s Almanac transcribed Sumner’s salty recollection:

I remember we played in Boston, and then we didn’t go back on stage. And we didn’t know anything was wrong until two American cops came in the dressing room and we were like “What’s wrong?”.

They went “You’ve got a full blown riot downstairs in the venue — they’re ripping the venue apart, and we’re here for your protection.”

We’re like “Why?”.


We didn’t play an encore. They said it’s insulting, and you only played for 40 minutes, half an hour. So they’re all going mad, they’re ripping the place apart.

We couldn’t have riots at every gig, so we were like “Well, we don’t want to do an encore — it’s cheesy, it’s a corny thing, y’know? It’s cheesy.” So we thought, “I know what we’ll do, we’ll get the synthesizers, and we’ll go on, press a button — then they can play the encore.

And we’ll be like “Fuck you”.

Always a charmer, that Barney.