Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) - G-Live, Guildford - November 11th, 2019

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (henceforth referred to as OMD) have an unusual place in my musical taste.

I bought every one of their albums up until Sugar Tax in 1991, but they also have the dubious honour of producing the only LP I ever returned for a refund in utter disgust (1983's Dazzle Ships, which despite revisionist opinions still sound like an unpleasant cacophony of noise to me, although I kind of wish I'd kept it as it was one of the original origami-style folding sleeves).

Still, everyone's entitled to one mistake and from the electronic gloom of tracks like 'Stanlow', through their infatuation with Joan of Arc and to catchy electro-pop like 'Sailing on the Seven Seas', I'd mostly remained a low key fan - I never thought of OMD as one of my favourite bands, but my LP collection suggests they were!

Having seen them live on TV somewhere, they sounded pretty good still, so I booked a ticket early in 2019 when I saw they were playing my local venue, G-Live. This was billed as their '40th Birthday tour'.

As I've mentioned before, I think G-Live has an acoustic problem, certainly if you're standing, as often the vocals are very hard to hear and, to be honest, throughout the support act Mig15, I was seriously questioning my decision to see OMD there, as the usual problem arose.

However, it seems support acts either get no decent soundcheck time or don't know how to do it and often the main act sounds much better anywhere and, fortunately, this was very much the case for OMD, being probably the clearest vocals I've heard from anyone there.

Mig15 were a lively and enjoyable foursome (with a McCluskey in the line up, I notice - Presumably the 'best Bassist in our house' who Andy McCluskey jokingly referred to later), who, whilst not setting the stage on fire, certainly got the audience nicely warmed up and got a deservedly warm applause.

OMD appeared about 5 past nine to rapturous applause, it was immediately apparent that some people regard Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys as near Messianic figures!

Amidst a dazzle of flashing lights and panels, we heard a fanfare (and various sounds akin to twisting your radio's tuning knob quickly - something anyone under 40 probably won't understand!) from Dazzle Ships and then they immediately got me onside by starting with the distinctly unshowy 'Stanlow' from their first album, a darkly moody electronic track. As it finished the audience roared with approval as if they'd just delivered the final song, rather than the first!

They then performed 'Isotype', which I assumed was an early track, but checking, I find it was released in 2017, explaining why I didn't recognise it!

They followed this with the early 'Messages', another track that I must admit I hadn't expected, followed by one I'd really hoped for but definitely not expected, 'Tesla Girls'.

Paul Humphreys was a static, if quite jolly, figure behind his keyboard, nursing a sore throat (more on that in a moment), while Andy McCluskey was a constantly moving, jerking energetic figure, whether toting his Bass Guitar or delivering robotic dance moves.

The sound, as I mentioned, was great, McCluskey's voice coming through clear and strong - He's not, I suspect he'd agree, a great singer, but his voice has a distinctive note and it was good to hear that the tracks sounded as I recalled them doing so.

A couple of tracks I didn't recognise followed (I'll admit it's a while since my OMD vinyl saw the light of day, so I'm not sure of the era, but I suspect they were post Sugar Tax). Andy McCluskey then sang 'Souvenir' which, apparently, is very unusual ("This is only the second time I've ever done this") due to Humphreys' sore throat. I don't think it was bluff because, from my spot near the front, you could see him reading the words from the sheet of paper he'd put at this feet!

The two Joan Of Arc tracks followed back to back and had the crowd in raptures again.

A little rest followed with more 'noises from Dazzle Ships' and then a few more tracks, including early tracks 'Statues' and 'Almost', 2019 single 'Don't Go' and 'So In Love'.

The main set rounded out with the crowd-pleasing 'Locomotion', 'Sailing on the Seven Seas' (possibly the track that sounded the best this evening?) and the classic 'Enola Gay', their first hit.

A very short interlude occurred before they came back for two more tracks, 'Pandora's Box' ("A new song. From 1991!" as McCluskey quipped) and finally the early track 'Electricity' ("The fastest thing we have").

Then they promised to be back in 2 years, the lights came on and we left.

Overall, it had been a very enjoyable performance, the sound (for once) was great and the selection of tracks was excellent for a 40th celebration, covering everything from their earliest stuff right through to stuff I'd never heard before!

McCluskey was great fun, far more than I'd imagine OMD to be and I would say it was probably the best gig I've seen in 2019.

I'd certainly think about going to see them again, which I rarely do - Now, I'm off to the loft to dig out my LPs!

Setlist:
Souvenir Tour Intro
Stanlow
Isotype
Messages
Tesla Girls
History of Modern (Part 1)
If You Leave
Souvenir(Lead vocals by Andy McCluskey)
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)
Time Zones
Statues
Almost
Don't Go
So in Love
Dreaming
The Punishment of Luxury
Locomotion
Sailing on the Seven Seas
Enola Gay

Encore:
Pandora's Box
Electricity

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