OMD: Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA 10/03/2011

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) has defied the odds. With many of their 80’s art-rock and synth-pop peers disappearing into novelty and nostalgia, childhood friends Andy McCluksey and Paul Humphreys, along with longtime bandmates Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper, have survived being out of fashion and out of patience with each other to return with an excellent album, 2010’s History of Modern. It successfully walked a unique tightrope of adherence to an already-strong, already-beloved identity while embracing new sounds and technologies. With widespread acclaim for History of Modern, a cadre of loyal fans and the chillwave aesthetic (one could say 2011 standout Washed Out’s Within and Without plays like an OMD remix album with new vocals) undeniably influenced by OMD’s work, the band has been touring for two years and have hit most major American markets twice.

In concert, OMD confirmed their ability to overcome obstacles, filling San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre on a rainy Monday night with their four man band. This performance came only seven months after their last Bay Area appearance at Oakland’s Fox Theatre and just one day after the city’s famously free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which had over 100,000 people in attendance. Every excuse for there to be a bad turnout at the OMD’s San Francisco show was there, but enthusiastic fans packed the house.

The band has Liverpudlian heart to spare, manifesting in the music and most especially in McCluskey’s connected, conversational and enthusiastic performance. Humphreys looked much happier behind the Roland keyboard, but gave studio quality lead vocals, especially on the highly underrated single “Forever Live and Die”. Considering the criticism given to other synth-heavy bands such as New Order for not bringing life to their live performances, Humphreys stage presence is still a cut above. This tour’s success is not fed by enthusiasm alone, but by sheer musicianship. In this area, Martin Cooper’s famous saxophone solo on “If You Leave” drew cheers, and McCluskey’s ability to strum his guitar, keep in good voice and rouse the crowd is extraordinary. The generous setlist, which included almost the entire History of Modern album and the underground hit “Secret” after its omission was heavily criticized earlier in the tour, only had one miss with the incongruent, pub song-esque single “Locomotion” What emerged most in the live setting, however, is how quickly their seemingly strictly synth-pop hits such as their debut single “Electricity” and “Enola Gay” can turn a concert hall into the dancehall with no remix required.

The set was sparse and simple, relying mostly on the simplicity of colored lights flashing to the rhythm and cloth banner backdrops. The setting reflected the mod style of the album and tour art, but the merchandise available was a bit disappointing considering none of the t-shirts available had the excellent orange backed block graphics seen on club cards all over town. The tour management, however, was very clever in having recordings of the concert available at the end of the evening’s show. Discerning super-fans must have been very happy to enjoy the show and leave with a quality recording instead of spending valuable time fiddling with their devices only to have a middling result. The mixed crowd, full of aging Gen-X’ers, young hipsters, sample-hungry hip-hop DJ’s, drag queens and everything in between responded as enthusiastically to tracks from “History of Modern” as they did to their ubiquitous soundtrack hit “If You Leave,” showing the band has earned their audience of connoisseurs and cognoscenti.


New Babies: New Toys
Tesla Girls
Radio Waves
History Of Modern (Part 1)
(Forever) Live and Die
If You Leave
Joan Of Arc
Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans)
Talking Loud And Clear
So In Love
Sister Mary Says
Sailing On The Seven Seas
Enola Gay

Walking On The Milky Way

Related Content

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide