Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark & John Foxx: Manchester – live review

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark & John Foxx
Manchester Academy
10th May 2013

OMD were the second band I ever went to see, back in 1980 and I’ve had a fondness for them ever since. They’ve just released a new album, “English Electric” (their second after reforming in 2007). Indeed some of the people I met back in 1980 are in the audience tonight.

Support tonight comes from John Foxx & The Maths. Foxx was the lead singer of Ultravox before Midge Ure joined. Ultravox went on to mega stardom in the 80’s but Foxx had a solo hit, “Burning Car” before Ultravox hit the charts. but he has gone on to cult status & huge critical acclaim, rather than commercial success, despite releasing some very commercial music, particularly with his latest project, The Maths. When The Maths originally played live it was with 100% old analogue equipment, but it must be too difficult to set up a support gig with such gear, as tonight there is an Apple Mac on stage. Aided by electronics wizard Benge (tonight on an electronic drum kit) & Hanna Peel (keyboards & violin), The Maths walk on stage just before 8pm in front of a large curtain hiding OMD’s stage set. They fire through several Maths songs including an excellent version of sadly overlooked (by everyone except Mark Radcliffe) single “Evergreen” as well as several of Foxx’s solo hits from the 80’s, “Burning Car”, “No-one Driving” & an excellent version of his biggest hit “Underpass”. The sound is crisp and clear and the lights afforded by OMD outstanding and quite blinding by the end of the set. Gone are the days of headliners sabotaging the support acts sound & lights. Foxx goes down really well getting huge applause at the end of the set.

OMD come on stage to the refrain “Please Remain Seated” quickly followed by “Metroland” from the new album, it builds slow & starts with drummer Malcolm Holmes & keyboard player, Martin Cooper on stage together as the curtain rises. It’s all electronic and a little reminiscent on Kraftwerk’s “Europe Endless” (the band are well known big fans). After the curtain has risen the minimal stage set is revealed, there is a huge video screen behind the band and hanging from the ceiling are 8 drapes, 4 either side of the drum kit. On one side there are Hacienda style stripes (as there are at the sides of the stage & above the stage), & the other side is white, to enable video projections, which work well during crowd favourites, “Joan Of Arc” & “Maid Of Orleans”. Both were huge hits in the 80’s and both about the unlikely pop song subject of Joan Of Arc. Such is the ability of OMD to write a great pop single, almost every song of the 22 played tonight, was indeed a single, save for 3 of the ones from the “English Electric” album that haven’t been released as singles (yet?). Once the band fire into the familiar “Messages” you realise that the live sound is amazing, soundman Chicky does a fine job, as does lighting man Andy who’s blinding vibrant lights are quite amazing. The first few songs in the set sees singer Andy McClusky on bass as well as lead vocals. When not on bass he does his customary dance which is a bit like Ian Curtis on ecstasy! Andy sometimes takes over on keyboards from Paul Humphreys, so that Humphreys can sing. When he sings “Forever Live & Die”, the hardcore female fans on the front row (hello Helen & Paula) throw knickers at him as a joke, on some nights up to 20 pairs of large ladies bloomers have been known to be thrown at him!

The crowd tonight really lap it up, applaud loudly and dance throughout Highlights for me are jaunty American massive hit single “If You Leave”, Humphreys sung, “Souvenir” & “Enola Gay”, who’s drum riff continues on after the band leave the stage, letting the audience clap along in time. The new songs played tonight from the new album “English Electric” fit in really well with the back catalogue & are as poppy & commercial as anything they’ve ever done.

Indeed the entire set is just wonderful dancy commercial pop music from start to finish, what a great gig. McClusky pays tribute at the end to Tony Wilson & Factory records who put out the single Electricity back in 1979, & everyone goes home happy.

All words & photo’s by Alex Staszko. More writing by Alex can be found in his author’s archive & more photo’s are below.

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  1. Saw them in Glasgow last week – absolutely amazing show. So enthusiastic after all these years and great sound. Found Foxx a bit dull and charmless though in support

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