The last time I saw Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark was in Toronto at the CNE on August 23, 1985. It was a Friday and my dad took me. The band played “Tesla Girls” “Telegram” “Locomotion” and “Enola Gay” among other classics of the time. “If You Leave” - for the John Hughes Pretty In Pink soundtrack – hadn’t even been released yet. Andy McCluskey – OMD’s singer/bassist – was wearing black pants with a white shirt. And they came on stage after Nik Kershaw, and before Paul Young and Powerstation. The ticket cost $22.50.
Twenty-six holy crap years later, in Vancouver, I’m a few minutes away from OMD taking the stage again, and I’m thinking about whether I ever really actually liked them or just want to like them because of what they represented: the bright-coloured, electropoppy, awesome-teen-film era of childhood. ‘Cos, man, OMD were seriously poppy.
But then, this happened: the in-house DJ put on Erasure’s “A little Respect”, and the crowd, most of whom had who gotten babysitters for the night and re-feathered their hair, went wild. IT’S THE 8Os! WOOOO!
And then OMD came on, smiling great big toothy grins and there was a room-sized explosion of fluoro-coloured happiness.
Andy McCluskey was still in black trousers and a white shirt, and still dancing like (someone said) ”a geography teacher at a wedding.” Paul Humphreys was on keys — older, and heftier as we all are — but grinning ear to ear. Andy ran around the stage, slapped hands with as many people his reach would allow, leaned into the barriers and sang into every corner he could. He was delightful cheeseball incarnate. He was also brilliantly funny.
“You’ll be relieved to know that the shit bass playing has come to an end,” Andy joked at one point… “and now comes more of the truly dodgy dancing!”.
Or by way of introducing “If You Leave”: “The last time we played the Commodore Ballroom was 30 years ago, when we were young nobodies playing synthesizers. Then Hollywood came calling….well, least we made a shitload of money off of that!” Or my favourite: ”Here’s a new song! It’s from 1991″. He also took shots at himself about being old and out of breath, called his colleague Paul a “prima ballerina” and then assured us that we shouldn’t panic when they played an actually-new song (“No, really, don’t worry! It’s brilliant!”).
Gods bless folks from t’north of England.
In fact, there was a lotta love in that room, and not just for the sly wit. And I do mean LOVE. From start to finish – check the setlist below for the full scoop on songs – and from front row to back, people were dancing and smiling and laughing and enjoying the high-energy and genuineness of these two dorky old guys (plus two session players on drums and keys) who came back from the 80s in a Delorean to play their electropop.
OMD possibly, and surprisingly, played one of the most warm-hearted shows I’ve seen in an age. It doesn’t matter if ”Locomotion” is a truly dreadful song, because “Enola Gay” had me – cynic, goth, exhausted reviewer – dancing around like Molly Ringwald in that bit in the Breakfast Club, in the last row of the venue, next to other people doing the same. For one night, it didn’t feel like some cheesy reunion, it actually felt like the 80s. And that… was kinda awesome. \m/
OMD SETLIST FOR VANCOUVER, COMMODORE BALLROOM, SEPTEMBER 30
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