(Crofoot, Pontiac, MI - March 11th, 2011)
'OMG ... it's OMD!'
For a month prior to this local-to-me concert I was like a cat on a hot tin roof with anticipation! Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark have always been a firm musical favorite of mine, and with both original (core) members - singer Andy McCluskey and keyboardist Paul Humphreys - still on board after some 25 years, well, the time was perfect for a small venue USA gig.
Once inside, the tour tshirt purchased, the beers primed, I noticed that the stage was small, no funky props in sight, the screen-projection backdrop (that they have used on this History Of Modern tour in the UK) nowhere to be seen. Regardless, it was going to be a night to remember (I sincerely hoped and prayed, at least!). And so, as time ticked by and opening act Oh Land came and went, various bouts of crowd excitement mixed with nervous endearment began to surface amongst the already-enthusiastic gathering.
Come the witching hour, both McCluskey and Humphreys take to the stage - no pomp, no circumstance. Humphreys - attired in a snappy black suit, black shirt, with black tie, McCluskey clad in black pants, white shirt, and a black tie - take to their instruments (bass guitar and keyboards respectively) and suddenly we're off and running with a song from their new album, 'New Babies: New Toys.'
Next up and we're given a twofer from their synthpop golden era in both 'Messages' and the manic-paced 'Tesla Girls.' Removing his tie completely, McCluskey announces to the crowd, "I think it's been 23 years since we last played here together. But, we're not playing all the weird shit for all the die hard fans tonight, trust me," he laughs. With that they launch into 'Radio Waves,' from the under-rated '93 album, Dazzle Ships, before culling the title track from the new album, 'History of Modern (Part I).' But not before McCluskey makes a very important announcement: "The good news is I've stopped playing bass. The bad news is the dancing now starts!"
And, my God, he wasn't wrong to have warned us about that strange factor of his stage persona! With both arms flailing windmill style, his torso seems to be spasmodically human one minute, dementedly possessed the next. Indeed, in a marriage of opposites, his energetically jerky, dancing-like-my-dad-would tics are combined with his completely unaffected, stone-like facial expression!
For the track, 'Forever (Live And Die),' Humphreys takes a rare stance center stage and with his mellow tones knocks it vocally out the park. Stood mainly behind his Roland keyboard, sometimes even looking shy, thankfully McCluskey is soon back on lead; the classic 'If You Leave' next on the set list. Sounding just like the record, his vocals are still spot on, the song having everyone singing at the tops of their voices.
The first single from their 1981 album Architecture & Morality. 'Souvenir' is next, complete with a strong synthesized melody, it again features a rare lead vocal by Humphreys. Not well known to the Americans within the crowd, for us Brits it was a rare treat to hear such a classic song performed live.
Having had technical difficulties along the way on this tour overseas, such bugs don't let them down here tonight either. Just a few chords into 'Joan Of Arc' and McCluskey halts the proceedings, revealing that he feels the song would be better if he actually turned his bass guitar on! Turning to his tech side stage, he wonders aloud, "Is there a problem with my bass playing I'm not aware of? Am I just such a shit bass player that you just turned it off?!"
Deciding to leapfrog that song, the McCluskey-penned 'Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc)' is sung next. Complete with discotheque strobe lights that fairly blinded me from start to finish, as promised, once sung they went back and brought us 'Joan Of Arc.' New tracks 'New Holy Ground' and 'Green' (the latter performed whilst swathed in a stunning green light) finds the crowd numb, before the great 'Talking Loud and Clear.' "This is the last slow song of the night," McCluskey warns them. And as much as the song still possesses a gentle bounce, it melds beautifully into their hit, 'So in Love." Complete with lavender LED light blocks, the song ignites the crowd once more.
Deciding to leave off the set list (for America) a beloved, and yet rarely heard oldie, 'Bunker Soldiers,' McCluskey makes an announcement: "This is a new song. Don't panic! Brothers and Sisters, pray with me," before they go into 'Sister Marie Says.' A song that combines classic OMD somber lyrics with a chirpy melodic tune, it goes down well. As the synthesized steel-drum sounds of 'Locomotion' are greeted by en mass of excited fans, the fun beat behind it soon has most all hip swaying. As for McCluskey up on stage, his shirt drenched, his erratic, demented monkey-like body jerks still in full flow, as he reaches the climax of the song he is clearly (almost) out of breath.
The classic 'Dreaming' was next and turned into one huge sing-a-long, before McCluskey reveals that 'Sailing on the Seven Seas' "... used to be a new song, but that was 20 years ago!" Bringing the set to a close, prior to the encore, the song of the night was given to us on a plate in 'Enola Gay.' The song, about a said-named American plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima in World War II, and with McCluskey back on bass, storms the ear drums of the crowd.
Coming back out for a quick two-song encore, McCluskey's statement that had they known that it (the reception) was going to have been like it had tonight, that they would have never left it 20 years and would have been back sooner, my personal OMD favorite is played: 'Walking On The Milky Way.' A song that was written by McCluskey as his OMD resignation statement back in 1997, to this day it still (musically/lyrically) resonates with me. Bringing the show to a complete close with fan favorite, the key-frantic 'Electricity,' as much as I loved the show so much, never wanting it to ever end, waving goodbye regardless, McCluskey bids all a fond farewell, "Drive safe and we shall see you again soon."
I hope so, McCluskey ... I hope so!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
Click here to read the BRAND NEW interview with Andy McCluskey!