Probably the biggest trend in the past couple of years is of bands tours where they play a single album (usually their best-regarded and usually best-selling) from beginning to end as part of their set.
Which makes it something of a dicey issue when bands do this.
I remember listening to a radio personality talk about going to a Steely Dan "Album" concert. He was looking forward to it beforehand - but afterwards only complained about how a bunch of songs with disturbing or menacing meanings were all neutered into "Smooth Jazz" by the way the band ended them (somehow do-do-do-do-do-waaah doesn't do them justice, but then this was a Steely Dan concert, so draw your own conclusions).
Then there's the band that has to do everything EXACTLY LIKE IT WAS ON THE ALBUM. That's why I didn't go see Rush when they did their MOVING PICTURES tour - their live releases show them trying their damnedest to exactly replicate their album music. This is as limiting as lack of talent; why not show some different takes on the songs?
So...what makes a good Album concert? The same things that make a good concert – a reasonable fidelity to the music, with enough of a stamp from the band to keep things interesting. We're not looking for perfection (that's what Studio Albums are for), but for a good translation to a live show.
Thankfully that can be said of Peter Hook and The Light when they played the whole of CLOSER in Chicago on September 23rd. The songs were faithful enough to the album (right down to the two "slow-down-and-stop" endings), but the live experience gave a different light to some of the songs -- “Isolation,” loosed from its tight, confined production (even for a Martin Hannett), actually took on epic, triumphant proportions, and “Decades”' ending flew off on its own towards the end, filling the theatre with sound instead of closing in on itself (as it does on the album).
The band also played a number of other songs, from the Warsaw tapes to [material from] UNKNOWN PLEASURES to the “Ceremony” cut that was meant to be a Joy Division release but was released by New Order. While one can't help but wonder how much of it was people living an alternate past – especially those who looked like they were balding and/or graying (Joy Division's first show in the States was scheduled in Chicago), overall it was a good night.