Live review: OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) @ the Bluebird TheaterBy Billy Thieme and Nathan Iverson | March 23rd, 2011 | 1 Comment »
“Now we truly regret having waited so long to come here again,” stated front man Andy McCluskey about half-way through the first show seminal British synthpop band OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) had played in Denver in some 20 years. The set on Tuesday night at the Bluebird Theater was worth the wait — which was more than evident in the constant dancing, fist pumping and Beatlemania-esque screaming of the sold-out crowd.
McCluskey led the four piece — the “classic” lineup from the band’s earliest years that included Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper on twin keyboards and Malcolm Holmes on drums — with nearly flawless vocals. He also danced continuously in frantic, smooth moves pulled straight from thousands of ’80s dance floors. In fact, the entire venue felt as if it had been transported en masse to the early ’80s, in an atmosphere rife with John Hughes and hairspray. The only part of the picture that belied the fantasy was age — but the 50-somethings in the crowd exuded more than enough youthful enthusiasm to compensate.
OMD traipsed through what could only be called a “greatest hits” set (which songs of theirs aren’t, after all?) — peppered with some selections from their latest record “History of Modern.” While younger audience members reacted positively to the newer tunes, it was the classic, early-synth, Kraftwerk goodness that really got the whole place bouncing, swaying and (loudly) singing along.
From slower, more pastoral pieces like “Souvenir,” “Maid of Orleans” and “Talking Loud and Clear,” to more anthemic and dancing numbers like “Tesla Girls,” “Locomotion,” “Dreaming” and the band’s first-ever song “Electricity,” each hit had people who looked more like middle managers and young grandparents acting like they were at prom.
As catchy, happy and often melodramatic as the band’s instrumentation was, it was McCluskey’s vocals that won the night. His voice, emanating from an appreciably older frame than the skinny specter from early MTV days, was just as powerful, just as swooning as it was in those early days. Together, the quartet aptly proved that they deserve the distinction and credit for helping to lay the original foundation upon which contemporary dance, trance and electronic music has been built.
They closed the pre-encore set with the formative “Enola Gay,” which lifted the Bluebird to yet another level of bliss. After a two-song encore, they left the stage, almost more reluctant than the audience was to end the night.
Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.