Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) Pryzm Kingston, organised by Banquet Records, 29th October 2023
In the booklet written for The Teardrop Explodes, “Culture Bunker 1978 – 82” written by Mick Houghton, he wrote how The Beatles and Merseybeat had cast a long shadow over Liverpool leaving it barren. Music moved back to London.
Then in 1977, with the introduction of punk, music was not just for those that studied it at university or for rich public-school boys, it was opened to the masses. As long as you had some talent and could play 3 cords you could get a hit single.
But at that time, there was another revolution taking place, the synthesizer was becoming more and more affordable and started falling into the hands of a young creative audience. Let’s not forget that when Moog made his first synthesizer, he could make one and he gave it to Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
It was in 1978 that Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys and Stuart Kershaw formed Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). Andy and Paul are from The Wirral, which is “across the water” when it comes to Liverpool, but you can still hear the Liverpool lilt in Andy’s voice. It was Andy that purchased a Korg M-500 Micro Pre-set for £7.76 a week over 36 weeks.
OMD like some of their “noisy neighbours” in Manchester, started creating a blend of music that was synthesizer based or blended synthesizer and guitar / bass. The big change was to evolve the sound and bring the synthesizer to the front, rather than just something to fill in the sound. Andy sent their first single, “Electricity” to Tony Wilson at Factory Records, Tony didn’t like it, but his wife did and so Factory gave OMD their first break and that lead to a major recording contract.
That was all in the 1970’s, let’s talk about the gig in 2023?
The gig was advertised as a 40-minute promotion for the new album and took place at Pryzm night club with Banquet Records.
The gig started with a recording of “evolution of species” from the new album, before the band came onto the stage. The stage was set up, just the two of them, no other musicians, with Andy McCluskey singing, Paul Humphreys on keyboards and and Apple Mac. They then went full on into tracks from the new album with “Bauhaus Staircase”. The title track to their new album, the second song being “Anthropocene” also from the new album.
It was then that Andy, strapped on the bass guitar that he is known for playing and they kicked off the third song from their debut from 1980, “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark” and “Messages”. Andy, still has a great voice after all of these years. The (most probably) over 40 audience burst into song and sigh. The audience was young again.
The fourth song, was from “Architecture & Morality”, probably my favourite from that album “she’s leaving”, a lovely song about love ending.
Then back to the new album “Bauhaus Staircase” and what Andy said was his favourite song from that album, “don’t go”, a lovely upbeat number, that you can imagine will be a OMD favourite in the future. Then straight into “Veruschka” from the new album, a lovely ballad that Andy seems to breathe life into. It was clear that some of the audience, well the bloke in front of me, had being doing their homework before the event, as he knew all the words.
Then the band finished with two of their well-known hits, “Electricity” and “Enola Gay”. “Electricity” was OMD’s debut single from 1979 and was integral at launching the synth-pop music genre. It was lovely to hear Andy’s bass guitar lines with that synth riff. “Enola Gay” being an anti-war song and interesting gets the most plays by OMD on Spotify.
Andy, then said “that’s it for tonight, but if you make a lot of noise, we will come back and do two more songs”. The encore was “Secrets”, I still remember what I was doing when I heard this song and “The Punishment of Luxury” which is from OMD’s 13th studio album from 2017, of the same name.
They finished at 40 minutes on the dot. It was a great mix of the new and the nostalgic and for us “oldies” we were not out too late.
I should say, I was pleased to hear that there were no songs from Atomic Kitten, that Andy founded and was the principal song writer.
Timothy Hughes | Now Spinning Magazine