Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Academy, Manchester, UK (17th November 2017)

Manchester was treated to a double dose of synth pop as 80’s leviathans OMD and Depeche Mode went head to head on the same night in the city.

Over at the Academy, OMD had no trouble packing them in, having declared the gig sold out weeks ago.   It’s safe to say a good proportion of the audience were 80s nostalgia addicts standing shoulder to shoulder with member s of the dedicated fan base.

Sound bites of two songs from the recently released “Punishment of Luxury” album were fused into an opening salvo before launching into the deeply atmospheric “Ghost Star”; the stand out song on the new album fashioned in the same signature style of their earlier and moodier offerings.

Their ever charismatic lead singer Andy Mcluskey has not lost his sense of fun and ability to whip up a crowd along with his unique brand of “dad dancing”. We were promised a selection of songs old and new to make us dance and dance they did. The first huge cheer of the evening went to old favourite Messages recognised as the song that catapulted them to their first Top of the Pops appearance in 1980.

Keyboard player and fellow founding member Paul Humphreys had a fair few stints on vocals which were met with fond applause from the audience, particularly “Souvenir” which was their highest charting hit.

Stand out song, not just for its commercial success, but for its pure theatrical expectation was “Maid of Orleans”. Strobe lights bounced off McCluskey’s shoulders as he swirled and twisted his way around the stage, enthralling the audience and showing them he still “had it”. Some of his moves are reminiscent of the jerky stage moves of the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division; fellow record label mates in the early days. Huge credit must go to drummer Stuart Kershaw who hammered and pounded out the distinctive waltz time beat, giving a three dimensional feel to the band which is often lost when they play as a two piece.

Electronic music is much maligned as being boring and cold, but OMD delivered love songs as well as ones about man’s relationship with technology. The two love songs, “If you leave” and “So in love” benefitted hugely from Martin Cooper’s warm and soulful contribution on sax.

“Enola Gay” finished off a highly energetic and bouncing set of 18 songs and fittingly the last song on the encore was “Electricity” first crafted in 1976. Andy McCluskey introduced it as the song that started it all off on Manchester’s Factory records, drawing huge approval from the crowd.

OMD will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next year and judging by the constant smiles on the faces of all band members, they are clearly enjoyed every moment of the gig as much as the audience.

The setlist was as following…

Art Eats Art/La Mitrailleuse Intro
Ghost Star
Tesla Girls
History of Modern (Part 1)
One More Time
Pandora’s Box
(Forever) Live and Die
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)
Time Zones 2016
Of All the Things We’ve Made
What Have We Done
So in Love
The Punishment of Luxury
Sailing on the Seven Seas
Enola Gay

Walking on the Milky Way
If You Leave