Some things are worth the wait.
Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) reminded attendees at the 9:30 Club on Thursday that he and the band had not toured the United States in 23 years. Their return did not disappoint. The classic line-up of McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Malcolm Holmes, and Martin Cooper showed the generation of bands that came and went in the intervening time exactly what was so exciting about marrying synthesizers to a guitar and calling it New Wave to begin with. A wildly enthusiastic audience at the nearly sold out show embraced not only the OMD classics but also the five new songs introduced live from the new album, “History of Modern”.
McCluskey bounced onto the stage as a man possessed by his own music. At 51, his dynamic dancing and friendly rapport with the audience made him appear to be 20 years younger! The erudite and cerebral McCluskey doesn’t necessarily summon the image of a stereotypical front-man, high on swagger and the styles of the moment, however the UK song-smith and super-producer charged the stage like electricity, jumping and wailing effortlessly.
The beauty of a great band is seeing how well its members work together, and that’s what made OMD’s performance a great one. In contrast to the locomotive McCluskey, the dapper Paul Humphreys manned the main synthesizer and sang on a couple of tracks such as the extraordinary audience favorite, “souvenir”. Dressed in a tailored black suit, Humphreys provided the fixed point around which the rest of OMD’s music rotated by generating a wall of synth that produced wave after wave of wild applause at the 9:30 Club. Rounding out the band were the rest of the classic line up of Holmes on drums and Cooper on a secondary synthesizer, giving the entire set a foundation of understated professionalism and confidence.
And a terrific set it was! Calculated to please OMD fans who had not been able to see the band in several decades, the set consisted of songs spanning their career. The band wound the audience up with dance favorites like “Locomotion” and “Enola Gay”, and practically held them transfixed with more sedate numbers like “Talking Loud and Clear” and the fabulous new ballad “New Holy Ground”. Everyone rocked out to the extremely underrated “Radio Waves” from the extraordinary masterpiece that is Dazzle Ships. The five new songs blended in seamlessly, demonstrating the timeless genius of the OMD synthpop formula. OMD appropriately opened with the lead song from the new album, “New Babies; New Toys”, and kept the beat going to the last song of the encore; their very first single, “Electricity”. The reception to the amazingly catchy “History of Modern (Part 1)” was nothing short of ecstatic.
Not only was the audience “so in love” with the show, the band members were obviously thoroughly enjoying themselves. McCluskey promised they would return soon, suggesting the band is riding a wave of creative output with the anticipated release of another new album sometime in the next several years. More than 30 years ago, Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson once told the band they are the future of pop music. That somehow never seemed more true than it did on Thursday night.