March 18th, 2011
Loopster Live: OMD at House of Blues
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: it was a helluva show. If, for some reason, you weren’t familiar with OMD – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – walking in Wednesday night, you walked out a fan. If you knew what to expect, the show served as a reminder of the group’s 33 years of hits.
But let’s back up for a minute. You probably have one music nerd in your circle who reminds you that he found Kraftwerk before everyone else. (If you’re not familiar with Kraftwerk, your best introduction is to simply know that it was the basis for SNL’s Sprocket’s theme.) More recently, the music nerd will tell you about how he, like Dave Grohl and Trent Reznor, has always been a Gary Numan fan.
The founding duo of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, can point to their early failures as testament to their affection for Kraftwerk. They also have Numan’s invitation to open for him on their first “tour” as testament that they were creating a unique, compelling sound. That alone should earn them some respect, but their U.S. success never matched their world-wide acclaim.
Launching out of Liverpool’s famed Eric’s Club, OMD didn’t get much attention until John Hughes featured “If You Leave” in the film Pretty In Pink, a song reportedly written in response to a plot change in the film’s ending and completed in one day. The song’s success, as Humphreys introduces it, “nearly ruined a little indie band”. In fact, mainstream acceptance resulted in a temporary break-up of OMD and many changes in the lineup.
This tour, their first since opening for Depeche Mode 23 years ago, reunites the four core members of the 80’s, including drummer Malcom Holmes and keyboardist/saxophonist Martin Cooper. While supporting their first full-length album in 14 years, “History of Modern”, McCluskey apologized for their prolonged absence and for playing new material, promising favorites would be performed. And they were.
Every major song with the exception of “Secrets” was recreated. I could bitch that the renditions were too close to the recorded versions, but that complaint seems petty when seeing old favorites performed live for the first time. McCluskey, acknowledging his 51 years, admitted to a series of slower tunes “to catch his breath”, but the set kicked back up with no drop in enthusiasm from the sold-out crowd.
If the synth sounds of the 80’s offend you, OMD’s performance probably won’t sway you. However, they deserve credit for combining the experimental elements of the German sound and crafting lush melodies, emphasized and enhanced by the great vocal harmonizing of McCluskey and Humphreys.
Some observations of off-stage: the crowd was notably “#azn” as one friend observed, turning HOB into the “House of Bellaire” for the evening. The make-up was explained to me as a fondness for 80’s music in the Vietnamese community. This made for an enthusiastic crowd, but also one in which an iPhone or HTC commercial could easily have been filmed. It seemed one in three concert-goers was holding a camera as high as possible for the entire show in order to video each moment. Hopefully, these 600 copies will be put to some use and rendered into a 3D recreation of the evening.
As an aside, Houston has increasingly benefitted from the spillover from SXSW. Many (inter)national acts see Austin as a required stop and fortunately Houston promoters have taken advantage of this and encouraged an additional detour. It’s nice to see Texas, and Houston in particular, get the opportunity to prove our support for live music that’s often ignored by many tours. OMD has had two or three performances since Houston. Some highlights of one was captured and is available here: http://kexp.org/live/liveperformance.aspx?rID=33108
Find OMD on the Web
Unconfirmed Set List:
1. New Babies: New Toys
3. Tesla Girls
4. Radio Waves
5. History Of Modern (Part 1)
6. (Forever) Live And Die
7. If You Leave
9. Joan Of Arc
10. Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans)
11. New Holy Ground
13. Talking Loud And Clear
14. So In Love
15. Sister Mary Says
18. Sailing on the Seven Seas
19. Enola Gay
1. Walking On The Milky Way
Additional pictures found at: www.flennerfoto.com