Blog 421: New Blogs, New Toys — OMD Live 2010

It’s not often that a band who are consistently brilliant live manage to surpass themselves; but regardless of the logistics of how they managed it, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark delivered a stellar performance on Tuesday the 2nd at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, in aid of their new album History of Modern.

My legs hurt. My arms hurt. My damn midriff hurts. These, however, are the hallmarks of an absolutely bangin’ night.

With holidays taken so that I could prepare in style by listening to their entire back catalogue, the evening couldn’t come soon enough. A proper concert is one of the few things in my life I can actually get properly excited about.

The Venue

The Concert Hall is a brilliant venue because, through the magic of investment in actual acoustic engineering, no matter where you get a seat you’re going to get amazing sound quality. Last time they toured (that is, before they supported Simple Minds, a band nobody cares about but somehow still managed to get a million times more publicity and airplay (oh, of course, because they’re Scottish it completely offsets how terrible they are these days)), we bought our tickets a tad late and ended up right against the back wall — but this didn’t damp our experience one bit. The sound was incredible and the place is small and intimate enough that the distance didn’t matter.

This time, we were quicker on the draw and got seats in the main floor area. Not as close to the optimum middle-centre as I’d have liked, but once again you couldn’t say a word against the view or the sound. I kind of feel sad for whoever had the seats behind us, because my hands spent rather a lot of time in the air…

Support

I’m sure I’ve griped about this before — the tendency for electro-based acts to have one shitty little acoustic guitarist playing textbook songs in a textbook style with textbook lyrics. And then there was Deacon Blue, who had three shitty little acoustic guitarists singing et cetera et cetera.

OMD didn’t fall into this trap! Huzzah!

We were presented with Finnish electro duo Villa Nah, from whom issued forth thunderous beats and killer synths. Rich chimes tinkled over pulsing square waves — a deep and satisfying sound for the minimalist setup of small keyboards they had (but then again, that’s the magic of computers). I do believe I shall make inquiries into purchasing their album, for they delivered some extremely sumptuous music.

Lavish Setup

The thing we immediately noticed about the light-show was the lighting rig that descended from the ceiling after Villa Nah left the stage to have a curtain attached to it. This turned out to be a projector-screen, on which was displayed a little video to go along with the traditional opening instrumental — History of Modern (Parts 3 & 4), previously unheard and sounding deliciously Dazzle Ships (though perhaps a little short).

As they powered into New Babies, New Toys, the grungy opener of their new album, this curtain fell down to unleash the band.

There were also six floating LED-board rectangles hanging at different heights; two high at the front, two medium in the middle, and two low at the back of the stage. Then they started tilting and changing height — this was the first time I’d ever seen OMD with a mobile set. Everything about it seemed somehow larger than life compared to the last two tours; then again, those times they were just doing Greatest Hits sets — this time, they had a whole new album to drop.

The projector-screen at the back of the stage also spuriously moved up and down.

The Audience

The place definitely seemed fuller this time, too. As is tradition at OMD concerts, most of the audience hesistated while early-adopters such as myself stood up to let our bodies free to bust some moves and generally go nuts — but it took them nary a minute to catch up (even if they were not clapping; even the stick-in-the-muds have to stand to see over the people that are actually enjoying themselves).

Unfortunately, the people next to me (not my parents, at least they have some sense of fun) stood like lemons for the length of the gig, so I had to dance three times harder and whoop three times louder and longer to make up for it. I think I managed.

The Music

What can I say? Somehow, by some indefinable increment, OMD upped their game. Maybe they just upped the volume, but whatever they did, they did it so right. New Babies, New Toys barrelled into staple crowd-pleaser Messages and then Tesla Girls. In fact, they hardly played any slow songs — only new album track New Holy Ground gave me a well-earned breather.

The only squiffy bit was when lead singer Andy McCluskey forgot his words to History of Modern (Part 1). But he is old enough to be my dad (who can’t remember the words to anything), so I’m sure we can let him off. The windmilling at the end of Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) more than makes up for it.

It was wall-to-wall block-rockers, though lead single If You Want It was conspicuous in its absence, along with History of Modern (Part 2), especially since we got Part 1 and Parts 3 & 4. Current single Sister Marie Says was a definite highlight and probably the source (along with Enola Gay) of my aching torso. I wish clubs would play more (any) OMD, it’s hard to really crack open the big guns when you’re locked into a two foot square.

Setting the Bar High

Since all bands I like seem to play towards the end of the year, OMD have now set a very high benchmark for A-ha on the 17th. Do you think they can do better? I haven’t seen A-ha since 2006, when they were my first concert and touring with the lacklustre Analogue; back then, I was a bit of a stick-in-the-mud too, sitting and occasionally clapping (along with all the balcony audience, alas).

But I was only young. This time, I’m ready for it.

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