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Live review: OMD

| March 14, 2011

Park West, Chicago
Saturday, March 12, 2011

For lovers of the 1980s, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark will always be tied to the Pretty In Pink soundtrack thanks to its monster hit, “If You Leave.” But for those who dive deeper into the electronic rockers’ annals, there’s actually much more to enjoy and a fairly influential history that’s since earned shout-outs from LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, The XX, and many more.

Even with a 14-year break between albums, the synth-saturated foursome (reunited on American soil for the first time since opening for Depeche Mode in 1988) sold out Chicago’s Park West shortly after the onsale and seemed to pick up right where it left off. In fact, the fresh “New Babies: New Toys” sounded like it came straight out of the new-wave era, retaining all the group’s usual blend of chilling keys, melodic basslines, and Andy McCluskey’s icy vocals.

The oldie “Messages” came next, though the transition was truly seamless thanks to its swirling grooves, while “Tesla Girls” recalled early MTV loaded with floor-filling capabilities (if only OMD’s audience wasn’t all grown up). For the smattering of younger fans gathered, “History Of Modern, Pt. 1” could easily be mistaken for Bloc Party or The Killers, simultaneously demonstrating McCluskey’s untainted talents.

Considering the bulk of OMD’s Stateside success came from “If You Leave,” it was no surprise it earned the most feverish response, though being placed midway through the set was unexpected. Though the band performed the radio staple with enthusiasm, it was clearly more interested in highlighting new tunes and giving less radio-worn retro cuts another go-round (so much so that last fall’s European tour omitted the track entirely).

Even with the main attraction out of the way, there were still plenty more electro celebrations, from the scurrying “So In Love,” to the angular “Sister Marie Says,” and the stately popper “Sailing On The Seven Seas.” However, the momentum did dip on a few occasions, mainly the dated arrangements during “Souvenir,” the stripped-down synth dirge “Joan of Arc,” and the somber ballad “New Holy Ground.”

Nonetheless, the set ended on the high of OMD’s secondary hit “Enola Gay,” an early new wave nugget reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s programming explorations. By the end of the 90-minute night, there was no denying the group’s place in the synthesizer-centered halls and its obvious fingerprints on many of today’s like-minded acts.

— Andy Argyrakis


Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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  1. J. Douglas says:

    The momentum did not dip during Souvenir, Joan of Arc and New Holy Ground… the texture changed. OMD are capable of so many different moods and delivered them all (except perhaps for a few more of the experimental tracks) at Park West on Saturday. It was a great show with a good mix of tracks delivered with a surprising energy for a bunch of fifty year olds! Hope they come back soon and play a couple more tracks from Dazzle Ships.