Saturday night, April 30, saw the second show in a two-night stand for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at New York’s Brooklyn Steel, as part of their 40th anniversary tour. Delayed for a couple of years due to COVID-19, the Souvenir tour celebrates 40 years of OMDs extensive and pioneering electronic pop career.
Live, OMD perform as a four-piece band featuring Andy McCluskey on lead vocals and bass, Paul Humphreys on keyboards and vocals, along with original keyboardist/saxophonist Martin Cooper and drummer Stuart Kershaw (who has been working with the band since the early 1990s). And perform they do! These four English gents are a powerhouse of electro pop, not letting up from the get-go. Kershaw’s powerful live drumming combined with pulsating sequences and periodically McCluskey’s signature bass riffs, bring both men and machines together.
With an output of 13 studio albums over their career, choosing what songs to play on a 40th anniversary retrospective would not be easy. Almost every album got a look in with the exception of two from the 1990s McCluskey-only versions of OMD — Liberator and Universal. Dazzle Ships was only touched on with the interlude ‘Time Zones’ included in the set, but overall there was something from every phase of OMD, including a special treat for fans of Architecture & Morality with “Souvenir,” “Maid Of Orleans,” and “Joan Of Arc” running together.
It could be said that much like Simple Minds, OMD’s visibility in the US is limited to hit a song featured on a John Hughes soundtrack, in this case Pretty In Pink’s “If You Leave.” A Gen Z friend I was with who’d never really heard of OMD but was thoroughly enjoying the show, found out they did of course know “If You Leave.” “Oh yeah it’s the ‘touch you once, touch you twice’ song! It’s these guys? Oh wow!” But of course OMD’s US hardcore fanbase have been with them since the beginning and they were rewarded with “Stanslow,” “Enola Gay,” and “Electricity” from OMD’s early albums. At one point, all four members took to the front of stage, behind small electronic devices Kraftwerk-style, to perform “Statues” and “Almost” (the B-side to their first single, “Electricity”). This was a nice break in the set and it’s something that Duran Duran have also done to similar effect.
A retrospective show means several recent songs from OMD’s “comeback” albums from the late 2010s and onwards were also featured. The English Electric, History Of Modern and The Punishment Of Luxury all got a look in, as did their most recent single, “Don’t Go,” recorded as a new track to complete their Souvenir 40th anniversary album. Maybe intentionally or not, they followed this with “Dreaming,” which was also a standalone single release to promote the band’s first greatest hits compilation back in 1988.
The fact OMD wrote their first song in 1975 (to which my Gen Z friend remarked “oh my god, they’re older than my grandparents”!”) is a testament to how much of a legacy OMD have in electronic music and are also one of the few bands of their kind that are still forging ahead with relevant new music. They are nice lads, too; they are happy to see you and, despite all the serious black clothes and all that “synthy stuff,” are more than capable of having a few laughs. “Did I come in too early on this one Paul?” McCluskey cracks over the mic, while later mentioning that fellow “nerd” Vince Clarke was inspired to pick up a synth and start a band after buying OMD’s first single. Since Clarke is a Brooklynite, I was expecting the man himself to jump up on stage for a guest slot (he did not). Clearly OMD don’t need any help from their musical friends anyway, only the ones in the audience. Go check them out on their current US tour and you’ll be treated to a musical history of modern!
OMD Live at Brooklyn Steel — Photo Gallery
(Editor’s Note: In addition to the above review, Andrew also shot a host of great photos of the show. Check out the gallery below.)