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Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark @ Symphony Hall Birmingham, 8th November 2010

Review for Birmingham Live.

Winter has finally arrived, it’s a cold, wet and windy night – time to spend an evening in the delectable Symphony Hall – possibly the ‘poshest music venue’ in Brum. Refined, comfortable and cosy and a venue where you just know the sound will be stunning, even when you’re up in the gods.

So tonight, it’s back to eighties retro with another electronica band turning back the clock. This time it’s Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, aka OMD, touring with their first album in fourteen years, History of Modern, accompanied with drippings of their classic hits. Birmingham is their last date on their UK leg of the tour – a positive acknowledgement the band make to their fans during the set.

OMD were one amongst a number of bands formed in the late seventies to have been inspired by the godfathers of electronica Kraftwerk. Some went to the dark side and mega success (note Depeche Mode), others started indie or dark and traversed to the commercial side before finding it tough, going into hiatus and then finding they’re once again cool(ish) and coming back out on the road. That’ll be OMD then.

So, with an instrumental interlude and swish laser graphics courtesy of the techie sponsors, here comes OMD in the form of the classic line-up from 1980: Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes.

They have retained their loyal fan base – an appreciative audience applauds as OMD start as they mean to go on, a mixture of very old, slightly less old (gap for hiatus time) and the brand new.

Give them their due, OMD are still up for it. With a slick and professional set, they clearly enjoy their re-born success. Andy McCluskey had a reputation for dodgy arm swinging and is still leaping round the stage “dangerous dancing”. And when he starts, he doesn’t stop.

The classics from Morality & Architecture are the stand out tracks. Following Joan of Arc, the track of the night has to be the classic Maid of Orleans, culminating with a cracking blast of drums. Standing ovation commenced, with the band truly overwhelmed by the response. McCluskey: “We need to take you everywhere with us – wonderful! I’m going to die in a quiet corner.” “Make sure you come back!” responds an audience member.

Then the set scoots into their candy pop era; with I’m So In Love with You (sung by Paul Humphreys much to the liking to the ladies in the audience), Locomotion and Sailing the Seven Seas, before the final track – Enola Gay – a lighter take on nuclear apocalypse.

The new tracks from their 2010 album are on the whole, pretty good, not as good as the classics, but, better than the mid eighties cheesy pop they drifted into.

The encore starts off with Walk on the Milky Way (swap McCluskey for Gary and Robbie you’re in Take That territory) completing with going back thirty odd years to Electricity.

At the end of the gig, McCluskey says to the audience “You’ve made this a spectacular concert, we’re counting the days till we return….”

So sounds like you will have the opportunity to see them once again (or for the first time in recent times) in the near future. Bands from eighties past, tour on a regular basis these days  – if you like your retro electronica on the darker melodic side, go and see Ultravox. If you were an OMD fan and like your electronica with a dabbing of candy-floss, a dark chocolate flake, the odd bit of cheese and “dangerous” dad dancing – go and see OMD.

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Setlist:

Intro

  1. New Babies; New Toys
  2. Souvenir
  3. Tesla Girls
  4. Bunker Soldiers
  5. History of Modern (Part 1)
  6. (Forever) Live and Die (sung by Paul Humphreys)
  7. She’s Leaving
  8. Messages
  9. Maid of Orleans
  10. Joan of Arc
  11. Architecture & Morality
  12. If You Leave
  13. Talking Loud and Clear
  14. I’m So in Love with You
  15. Locomotion
  16. Sister Mary Says
  17. Pandora’s Box
  18. Sailing the Seven Seas
  19. Enola Gay

Encore:

20. Walking on the Milky Way

21. Electricity