Thursday 21 June 2007

OMD, Nottingham Royal Centre

As we arrive for the OMD gig, I am struggling to remember when I last saw them. It was around 1984 and I'm sure it was on the 'Junk Culture' tour but the internet seems to disagree with me on this point. If it was on the 'Crush' tour then that's slightly embarrassing.

I look round at the audience, almost all look older than me, many a lot older but I guess that quite a few are probably younger than me, it's just that they don't look it. I wonder how many of the women here tonight were also here in 1984 and how many of them my teenage self lusted after that night. They are certainly nothing worth lusting over now and they've all ended up with some seriously overweight blokes. Ha. Serves them right they should have taken notice of me. Certainly wouldn't swap my slot tonight for any of theirs.

The support band are from Australia and are called Lovers Electric. They are rather charming, a kind of a Dresden Dolls crossed with Arcade Fire but without the instruments or the people for that matter, there are only two of them, a guitar and an occasionally used Casio keyboard. They are quite good in a minimalised minimalist sort of way and they go down well with the crowd. Although, lets be honest, the crowd probably don't get out much, so anything is going to sound fresh and interesting. The band, to their credit go straight to the foyer post-performance to sign copies of their album, which appears to be selling well.

The audience may have aged and expanded horrifyingly but the venue hasn't. The sound system is still akin to listening to your own hi-fi system. E.g. it gives a good reproduction of the sound but is never likely to bowl you over but then the venue doesn't have the acoustics to hold a really good gig. With almost the entire top balcony empty they could have fit the audience into Rock City and blown us all away, except that most of the audience wouldn't have been able to stand up for the duration. As it is when they rise to their feet tonight it is often for brief periods before they slump back to their seats for a rest. It's a good job really, as the balcony may not be strong enough to support all the flab jiggling around.

The band come fresh from a short series of dates where they gave a complete performance of the "Architecture and Morality" album. This second part of the tour had been billed as a 'Best Of' and the worry was that they we would get more of their latter 'disposable' pop and less of the early era classics. I needn't have worried as at dead on 9pm the lights went down and the ethereal instrumental title track of 'Architecture and Morality' silenced the crowd. At its conclusion three of the band took the stage and the drummer, Malcolm Holmes began the heavy drumbeat of 'Sealand'. Finally Andy McCluskey took to the stage to great acclamation to sing the few mournful words that appear towards the end of the track. The band then proceeded to play the entire album with great assurance. The whole show is accompanied by a stunning range of visuals from a video screen at the back of the stage. The early material is accompanied by images of the cold war:- nuclear missiles, images of Cuba and the Soviet Union etc, highlighting the political edge that the band had to their early output.

Half the audience are loving it, the other half, who presumably jumped aboard around the time of 'Locomotion', are looking confused. McCluskey reassures them, promising them the hits will come later. He's says they're having too much fun playing the A&M stuff. So am I. Don't stop. They don't. 'Georgia' is predictably excellent, so too is 'She's Leaving'. McCluskey showing us that his voice is still in great form. Humphreys too does a good job when he takes vocals on 'Souvenir' before handing back to McCluskey to sing the two songs devoted to Joan of Arc.

They finish the mini A&M set with 'The Beginning and the End'.

McCluskey then announces that they will now go on to play twelve hit singles in a row. I hesitate to be critical but this is where things start to go downhill a touch. 'Messages' was of course excellent and I've always had a soft spot for the 'Junk Culture' stuff but do we really need to hear forgotten singles like 'Pandora Box' again. This hails from the post 1989 split era when OMD were solely a vehicle for McCluskey with the other band members having long departed. Equally 1991's 'Sailing on the Seven Seas' although a huge hit at the time, isn't really an OMD record.

They close in style with 'Enola Gay' but return very quickly for an encore. They launch into a track I'd thankfully forgotten about, the 1996 hit single 'Walking on the Milky Way' (another post-split song). In my opinion better it remained forgotten. It's certainly wouldn't have been my choice as an encore. They follow this with an outstanding 'Electricity' and then close with the haunting 'Romance of The Telescope' from 1983's 'Dazzle Ships' album, although it originally appeared as a B-side to Maid Of Orleans. It is a fitting closure. How good would that have sounded bouncing off the walls of a smaller venue?

It is the only track to be played from 'Dazzle Ships' tonight. No 'Genetic Engineering' and no 'Telegraph'. I could be wrong but doesn't it gall the other members of the band to play three McCluskey solo hits while omitting classics like these and others such as 'Red Frame/White Light'. Well, at least they didn't play the 'Universal'.

The first OMD album I bought was 'Architecture & Morality' and the last was 'Junk Culture'. So I only bought the two, although I delved backwards in to their earlier stuff. I soon got disillusioned with their lighter pop sound, preferring the spikier early stuff. This is the problem with OMD. They graduated from being an art-house electronic band to a pop band and did so very quickly. In the process they 'ditched' most of their early material, tonight they try and combine the two genres. It didn't quite work but it was a good attempt and still a very good gig. Now if they played a smaller venue and played stuff culled purely from their first four albums now that would be something really worth seeing, although the flabby folks may disagree with me.

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