Graham Parker Finally Ventures South Again

It’s been 17 years since our last visit with Mr. Parker – time flies when you’re having fun

More crazy tour threads were woven today when I was checking up on Midge Ure and saw that he was playing solo acoustic at the Atlanta City Winery on June 1st.  I was not going to travel for that, but it’s an indication of how my attitudes have changed on Mr. Ure that I’d certainly make the time of he were to play in that fashion in my city. That got me wondering… who else was playing that establishment? And I saw that Graham Parker was there on May 13th. Basically, the same weekend as our anniversary. I floated the notion to my wife and she was ready to go.

Yow! It’s been 17 years since my wife and I have enjoyed a Graham Parker concert, but often were the times that we had been pining for one. Every time we play a Parker CD we can’t help but want that. I have 19 Parker discs in the Record Cell and I’m happy with the notion of owning all of them. His songwriting point of view is so distinct and accomplished, how could we not? I’d check his website for tour dates, which, more often than not, saw him sticking close to his native upstate New York climes. His shows of the last 20 years had been largely solo acoustic events, like the first time we saw him in Orlando in the late 90s, but the 2001 tour for the excellent “Deepcut To Nowhere” album was with the band The Figgs, backing onstage. We chatted with the not-at-all-truculent Parker afterward and discussed which Jacksonville, Florida club had been the impetus for “I’ll Never Play Jacksonville Again.”

In 2012, he gathered up The Rumour and produced two albums with them for the first time in over 30 years, “Three Chords Good” and “Mystery Glue.” I thought for certain that the added commercial oomph of the full Graham Parker + The Rumour machine might see him touring more widely and in our regions… but I was wrong. Most of the modern GP + The Rumour tour dates seemed to be in England, actually. So we have been waiting patiently until now for a chance at the man playing live. This is a solo set, and it’ll probably be acoustic, but I’m fine with that. After all, it’s the songs themselves, not their production style, that hold all the power in Parker’s oeuvre.

Graham Parker | Alone In America [Again] US Tour | 2018

April 26 | Bordentown, NJ | Randy Now’s Man Cave (SOLD OUT)
April 27 | Piermont, NY | The Turning Point
April 28 | Bay Shore, NY | YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts
May 3 | Bordentown, NJ | Randy Now’s Man Cave (NEW SHOW ADDED)
May 4 | Pawling, NY | Daryl’s House
May 5 | Boston, MA | City Winery
May 7 | New York City, NY | City Winery (SOLD OUT – NEW SHOW ADDED)
May 8 | Washington, DC | City Winery
May 10 | Chicago, IL | City Winery
May 12 | Nashville, TN | City Winery
May 13 | Atlanta, GA | City Winery
May 17 | Tuckerton, NJ | Lizzie Rose Music Room
May 21 | New York City, NY | City Winery
June 2 | Norfolk, CT | Infinity Hall Music Hall and Bistro
July 22 | Nicollet Mall, MN | Brit’s Pub

As we can see, a couple of the dates have already sold out, and the Atlanta tickets were almost gone when my wife made a bee-line for the website, so if you’re up for some potent songwriting and the considerable presence of Parker, act accordingly. Most of the dates were a tour of the City Winery chain, founded by Michael Dorf. Dorf came to fame with his first club, The Knitting Factory. Having seen Ure there at the Nashville location last year, I can vouch that these venues were certainly built for comfort. Join us later for the inevitable review.

– 30 –

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Professor Dolby Gets Some Summer Vacation

Dolby will present a one-man show this Summer in The States

It’s funny how threads start. Last week it transpired that the long mooted Ron Kane memorial; get-together by his friends is finally set to come off this summer. If you’ve not seen the posts, I was set to visit my friend Ron before his death last November for one last time, but the reaper acted a day before my flight. Ron had specified no funeral so I cancelled my flight and had a lot of airline credit to use this year. Ron’s West Coast buddies had talked about a meeting of his friends to indulge in Ron pastimes like a lot of record shopping and hopefully to share their stories of the guy. I only saw Ron on four occasions in 32 years of friendship [and that only in the last decade] since we lived 3000+ miles apart, so I was interested in finding out more about this offbeat guy who set me up with hundreds of fine records, CDs, and videos like some sort of  benevolent fairy godfather of music.

Then, last week, Ron’s pal Mark announced that near what would have been Ron’s 60th birthday, Ron-Kon II* would be happening in L.A. from the 27th-29th of July of this year. So I booked my flight, which used up all but $32 of the original flight credit.  Obviously, I started to look around at what concert action I might avail me and my pals chasinvictoria and Mr. Ware [commenters here as well as nearly lifelong friends], who would also be attending to event. When what to my won’dring eyes should appear but the 800 lb gorilla of “80s Nostalgia” shows! Usually, I’m pretty resistant to this sort of thing. Usually they feature some bogus [but popular] bands of the period like Tom Bailey, Culture Club or the like. Stuff I’d taped and erased long ago, watering down the vibe.

Blondie anchor an impressive “80s Night” with Dolby, Ant, Berlin, and Almond

80s Weekend #6 – July 27, 2018 @ Microsoft Theater | L.A.

  • Blondie
  • Adam Ant
  • Thomas Dolby
  • Marc Almond
  • Berlin

I have several albums by each of these acts. Tickets are going for a wide variety of prices: $67-$505 and can be found here. Now I’ve seen Berlin, Deborah Harry, Adam Ant, and Thomas Dolby. Harry and Dolby twice, even, but this was a pretty good lineup. At first blush, I seriously wanted to go, but then the endorphins ebbed, and the realization that Blondie would play a full set with micro-sets by the openers, possibly sharing a house band to speed the plow, made me think that the effort to attend a big show in L.A. [hell, parking alone was $25!] quickly made me re-think my ardor. This would also take me and my friends out of the “opening night festivities” for Ron-Kon II; ostensibly why we were going. So I put the idea back on the shelf of “what if…” Marc Almond was the one act I’d not seen before and would such a tease be worth it? I thought not even though this is Almond’s only US date on his current dance card. Still, that got me thinking about what Dolby had been up to, besides teaching at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.


Dolby’s infamous headmount camera

When I got to Dolby’s website, he had announced a small Summer Tour of The States, of which the Blondie show was but a footnote. Dolby plans to dust off his excellent one-man show and travel with a simple setup where he talks about each of the songs he’s performing and breaks down the origins and creation of each while his headmount camera shows exactly what he’s doing with array of tech to build up the construction of each song. Frankly, I’d much rather see Dolby in this environment than in being whisked on and off the huge Microsoft Theater stage for four of his hits; two of which I bet I would not want to hear in any case. Alas, my timing is such that I will still be missing this much more interesting tour! I will be arriving in L.A. on the 26th and Dolby also has a club date in the area… the night before.

Thomas Dolby | Summer Shows | USA 2018

July 25th | Largo at the Coronet | Hollywood, CA
July 27th | Microsoft Theater | Los Angeles, CA
July 30th | The Birchmere | Alexandria, VA
July 31st | Ram’s Head | Annapolis, MD
Aug 1st | Sellersville Theater | Sellersville, PA
Aug 3rd | The Cutting Room | New York, NY
Aug 4th | Natick TCAN Center for the Arts | Natick, MA
Aug 6th | Dante Theater | Atlantic City, NJ
Aug 8th | Center Stage | Baltimore, MD

As you can see, except for the big ticket L.A. show and its satellite, all of his dates are a quick jaunt from his Baltimore home base. A sensible tour and good for all of his fans in the US Northeast. Maybe next time for me.

In the meantime, on the night of July 28th, the schedule in Ron-Kon II is open for a possible concert. If anyone in the L.A. basin knows of a gig that would be “just the thing” for someone with my tastes to attend, leave a comment or drop me an email on the contact form.

– 30 –

* Ron-Kon was Ron’s infamous 50th birthday party a decade ago in Portland, Oregon, where friends from around the world congregated to eat, drink, view beautiful gardens, and of course, shop for records.

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Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 58]

OMD – History Of Modern | 2010 – 3

[continued from last post]

“Side Two” [as even the CD calls it] began with “The Future, The Past, And Forever After.” OMD fandom and critics in general largely consider this track one of the worst on the album. I was seduced by its beatbox programming, but even so, after eight years top live with it, I can see the cracks in its armor. I dislike the gospel-lite female backing vocals that were call-and-reposnse with McCluskey’s leads, and the lyrical quote from the primordial rock number “Shake, Rattle + Roll” had no absolutely no place on an album called “History of Modern.” I did like the Kraftwerk inspired middle eight that involved phasing the train engine sample for an effect not unlike parts of the middle of “Autobahn” mashed up with “Trans Europe Express.”

I found it interesting that the “Sister Marie Says” melody was deemed too close to that of “Enola Gay” back in 1981, but now it was fine. The conceit of the song was where I didn’t follow since I had never heard of the nun-wannabe who the song references. Apparently, “Sister Mary Gabriel” [née Sofia Richmond a.k.a. Sofia Paprocski, Zofia Sagatis, Sofia Marie Angel…] was a crackpot who published full page ads in major UK newspapers in the early 90s warning of an apocalyptic event that clearly didn’t happen. We in The States had no idea who she was. I thought this song was about a nun who taught young McCluskey in school! At any rate it was a bit of lightweight OMD pop with a slightly interesting story behind it. There were better songs that could have been singles from the album [this was #2] but… there was also worse.

The origin of “Pulse” …what was Andy thinking here?

There was nothing lightweight about the criminally wrong “Pulse;” a song that was apparently released as a Danish single in 2005 from the dancepop duo Brother + Sister [L]. It was a profoundly wrong action for this band, striving to re-establish themselves after a long layoff. Using Eurotrash dancepop as a template for growth was a huge mistake. McCluskey may have written a new song over their melody and the sample netted the writers of that opus a cut from OMD’s completely wrong-headed descent into sleazy electro/hip hop. The backing track owed a lot to “I Feel Love,” which usually is a way to get on my good side, but not here. Hearing McCluskey drop the f-bomb amidst the heavy breathing and slurred innuendo was most troubling. The vibe was so far off the OMD gameboard, that only a dalliance at death metal could have been more egregious. As bad as two other songs on this album were, they didn’t have a patch on this one for sheer dismaying debacle.

The album whipped itself into shape with the last three songs. “Green” was an old mid-tempo ballad that Andy and Stuart Kershaw had written in the 90s and fortunately, Mr. Humphreys heard it, and wrote a new melody for it that imbued it with much more OMD DNA that it may have had at the onset. I especially liked the dark, dubbed out outro that reminded me of Roxy Music’s “For Your Pleasure.”

Even better was “Bondage Of Fate” a waltz-time track that used a sample of Hannah Peel’s apparently unreleased “Organ Song” to build a weirdly fragile song around. Subtle and sibilant insect noises figured in the complex and unique soundbed. It was all very delicate and demure until the middle eight when it erupted into a full-bodied waltz-march until the energy evaporated and it returned to its unique, weird placidity. This one was definitely OMD mapping out new territories that sounded like little else, other than themselves.

Finally, the album ended with its best song. “The Right Side” was OMD trying to rewrite their favorite Kraftwerk song, “Europe Endless.” Coincidentally, it’s my favorite Kraftwerk song as well, so I give OMD a full pass on this since they have returned subsequently to this notion on later albums. While “Europe Endless” is a beauty of a Kraftwerk song, of course OMD had to put their own melancholic stamp on things, with lyrics that set up guaranteed misery then examine the difficulty in finding anything but that. The trance repetition of the music soon moved the listener beyond transitory pain or pleasure and into the infinite. The first time I listened to this and it faded out at the six minute park, I was pleasantly surprised when it came back to life for an additional 2:25 “dub movement” that the band, thinking that they should not moderate such pleasure, added to the original song for a longer, more luxurious vibe.


I loved this album on release, even through its faults. Just because it actually tried to reconnect with whatever possibly atrophied mojo they still had access to. There was clearly material here that would have been huge improvements to much of the material on their 1985-1998 albums had it been there instead. I still love it, because it was the best album they had released since the time of “Junk Culture,” by my reckoning.

It could have sounded better; Paul was a firm believer in soft synths just because he fancied things staying in tune over time…the wimp! There were some horrible songs attempted that were clearly written with others in mind [who were absolutely not OMD] to perform them; yet they happened anyway [“If You Want It,” “Pulse.”]. A third song was more of an OMD song [“Sometimes”] yet one that I would think few fans were clamoring for. Through it all Paul Humphreys didn’t manage to snag the mic. For OMD’s longest album, after a decade plus [two decades plus for three quarters of the band] in mothballs, I would have thought that this would not have happened, but I was wrong.

One interesting detail could be found in the credits of the album. All of the tracks were credited as written by OMD or OMD/other in the case of a few songs with outside writing credits. When Paul Humphreys, followed by Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper, left the band in 1988/1989, Andy was granted the OMD name for his own purposes. When bands initially form, the founding members sign contracts and they each usually have shares in the band. If a member leaves, then rejoins at a later date, it is much more likely for that member who left to be regarded at that point as an employee of the band, not a full member. Songwriting credits will usually bear this out with songs possibly attributed to BAND NAME/strayaway member and not just BAND NAME.

On this album, I know for a fact that Paul co-wrote at least “Green” since the DVD that came with the boxed version of this album said as much point blank. Yet, on the disc, “Green” was credited to OMD, not OMD/Kershaw/Humphreys, implying that McCluskey ceded band membership to the others again, which is not usually the norm, though it may have been a negotiated condition of reformation. In any case, it was the right thing to do and it may be the reason why the band’s reformation is still going on strong 12 years later.

I was happy that OMD had come back from the dead for a second time, ad this time, the results were much, much better than what we had gotten in 1991 under the OMD name. This actually seemed like and OMD album, barring two or three  horrendous missteps that should have been caught during the pre-production stage. Better still, I was able to look forward to OMD touring The States under their own power again. Maybe this time, I could manage to catch a show that was not an opening act for some lesser band?

Next: …Headliners Again

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Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 57]

OMD – History Of Modern | 2010 – 3

[continued from this post]

It was September of 2010 that the long-awaited new OMD album finally got released. This was the first album with the OMD imprint in 15 years, but this one had all four original members as part of the band, for the first time since 1988 and the “Dreaming” single. It began with the bang that was “New Babies, New Toys;” a piece of clatter and hum sardonically referring to the dirty business of pop music. A subject that had been a double edged sword for OMD. Particularly during Andy McCluskey’s adventures in assembling a manufactured group of women a decade earlier. The tune burst with hooky flavor crystals and [did you notice that?] more than a dollop of the Joy Division/New Order “lead bass” sound. It was a vibrant, new sound for this band and set me up for the album in a big way on its first listen.

Too bad that the next song, the all-important pre-release lead off single, was the turgid slab of schlagerpop known as “If You Want It.” Not 13 seconds into it and the big, fat lighter-waving chorus hit like 50 pounds of stupid! I cannot imagine why this song, obviously written years earlier for the likes of Atomic Kitten or The Genie Queen, was deemed to not only be included, but lead single material. The band claim that “industry feedback” selected the song and if so, it shows how even 27 years later, they were still smarting from the “Dazzle Ships” sales plummet. One would think that after reforming on their own terms with no label telling them what to do, that this sort of bet-hedging [the worst kind, really] would have been jettisoned.

Fortunately, the album righted itself quickly with the best of the three singles released from it. The title track, “History Of Modern [part 1],” by all rights should have been the lead off single from it [not the third] as it was a perfect blend of typically esoteric OMD subject matter [the entropic death of the universe] with an ironically upbeat technopop arrangement that was their stock-in-trade during their glory years. Sounding just as appealing thirty years later. Twelve years later and hearing this can still get my spine tingling.

Even, better, the superb deep cut that followed, “History Of Modern [part II],” had every right to be another single in its own right. The heartbreaking melody had the quintessential OMD edge with an almost Celtic melody couched in a pastoral synth and sound effects arrangement that very strongly recalled “Sentimental” from La Düsseldorf’s “Individuellos.” Then the chorus arrived  in a burst of high energy and ignited the tune with a backbeat that wouldn’t quit. As good as “HOM1” was, I loved part II even more. This was superb OMD.

Unlike what followed. “Sometimes” was a bad decision of a track that dared to incorporate the spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” Andy had been diabolically interested in incorporating gospel elements into OMD ever since “The Gospel Of St. Jude” on “Universal.” Why, I cannot say since the band have absolutely zero to do with that genre. Female backing vocalists sang the song quote as McCluskey simply got lost in the mess of this song. The sound design was just as bad with oscillating synth loops [my least favorite soft synth cliché] sounding indisputably cheap and nasty in the hackwork arrangement.

The band’s spiritual debt to Kraftwerk could not have been made more explicit than in “RFWK,” the next song taken from the first letters in Ralf, Florian, Wolfgang, and Karl’s first names. McCluskey describes how he felt like a son to them as Paul delivered a synth solo full of the classic Kraftwerk sound. The arresting “New Holy Ground” saw them harkening back to not only the melancholy melody of their classic B-side, “The Avenue,” but also Holger Czukay’s rhythmic walking on the obscure Eurythmics B-side “Le Sinistre.” It said something for the health of the band that this song could be deemed album material instead of being relegated to a B-side.

Next… …Side Two Cometh

 

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OMD Rock Hot-Lanta In Sold Out Style [part 2]

[continued from last post]

At 8:15 I went outside to meet Darlene, who was buying the two extra tickets I had for sale [as seen on this blogpost]. We made the swap and she and her companion got tickets to a sold out show for less than cover. Life should always be this good! I had a nagging feeling right about then that I needed that “Punishment Of Luxury” keychain I had seen earlier at the merch table, so I picked one up. My keyring is a plain, boring loop. Far better that it should be enameled steel with the POL artwork! I showed my wife and she asked “did you get me a keychain?! I needed a new one!” And with that I went back to the merch table for one more time.


At 9:30 sharp the lights began to come alive and the “Punishment Of Luxury” overture began playing on the PA, blending snatches of “Art Eats Art” and “La Mitrailleuse” from the new album into a mood setter, then the band walked calmly onstage and performed the best song they have written since reforming. “Ghost Star,” as seen above, threw a gauntlet that would be extremely difficult to top, right up front.

The stunning, six minute wonder blended the classic, cinematic soundscapes of a song like “Stanlow” with the bucolic beauty of Kraftwerk’s finest moment as a sequencer pattern as on “Europe Endless” lent filigree and a contrapuntal, underlying leap of joy to the otherwise somber composition. McCluskey’s emotional delivery milked the lyrics of every drop of pathos and impact. I weep just thinking about it in retrospect and we have my wife to thank for the video above that proves to me that I was not imagining things. I was in the palm of their hands.

Then, they took the honorable, difficult path, and played the other six minute song on their excellent “Punishment Of Luxury” album. “Isotype” was another roots check song with a soaring melody from the [vintage] Kraftwerk melodic playbook that those guys are not too interested in pursuing in the last 35 years. Of course, only OMD would write a song about a German-designed graphic, pictographical system of information graphics! It’s wonderful to hear this band, hobbled by fealty to commercialism for so many years in the 80-90s be truthful to their natures! All served on a beautiful technopop platter.

When Andy gets the bass, it’s time to set the wayback machine to 1979…

With a dozen minutes spent exploring the expansive breadth of their new album, the next song was an established OMD classic, the always welcome “Messages,” their first hit single from 1980. They always perform the beautifully arranged 10″ single version, thankfully. Its intro buildup remains potent after nearly 40 years. Then, the even more upbeat “Tesla Girls” boosted the energy levels even further. This had been an expertly constructed arc of music beginning with the melancholic “Ghost Star” and ending with the ebullience of “Tesla Girls.”

The night’s only dip into the “History Of Modern” era came next with “History Of Modern Part 1,” which has been a song that they played in each of the last three shows I have seen since 2011. That they played it at the last opening set for the Barenaked Ladies in 2016 perhaps indicates that it has attained classic status with not just me, but the masses as well. A lovely pure pop deep cut from “Punishment Of Luxury” followed as “One More Time” was next in the setlist. OMD had released three singles from “Punishment Of Luxury;” “Isotype,” the title track, and “What Have We Done,” but just last month, the band let a swell extended [3:50] remix of this one by Fotonovela slip out as a discount DL-only single at the usual online music stores making this, technically, the fourth single from the album. It’s certainly single worthy material with great pop hooks and a swooping synth attack from Mr. Humphries.

Paul takes to the stage for his US top 20 turn

After six songs, it was time for Paul Humphreys to take the lead for the still winsome “Forever Live + Die.” The differences in the OMD dynamic are never so clearly delineated than when the retiring Mr. Humphreys sings lead instead of the exuberant McCluskey. This single remains a high point from the uneven “Pacific Age” album and it was in retrospect, a good thing that OMD managed a US hit with one of Paul’s songs. It was a much better followup to the tepid “If You Leave” which, ironically, was the next song in the set. I was glad to hear it come this early in the set. Affording it end of set status is giving it too much power for my taste. But Paul didn’t get too much of a break behind his synth as he was called back out front for the still sumptuous “Souvenir,” a song I will never tire of. Of course, this meant that the nearly ironclad “Architecture + Morality” suite, as I refer to it, would follow next.

If it’s stroboscopic, it must mean “Maid Of Orleans”

And it did. Ever since reforming, the band have performed all three singles from that classic album in the order of release with “Joan Of Arc” and “Joan Of Arc [Maid Of Orleans]” following “Souvenir” as night follows day. It boggles my mind to think that all three of these songs filled the UK top ten for a six month period when such things were possible in this fallen world. The profoundly stirring “Joan Of Arc [Maid Of Orleans]” never fails to get the endorphins flowing with its thunderous tattoos of drums, this time courtesy of Stuart Kershaw as the flashing strobes caught the dervish McCluskey in mid twitch throughout. I could not foresee what would come next.

As the waves of fevered applause filled the venue to the sight of the exultant McCluskey, the stage lights dimmed and a mix of “Time Zones,” “The Right Side,” and “Decimal” played on the PA for about 90 seconds. Where was this going? Where I least expected it, when the band reconvened at the front of the stage, in the style of Kraftwerk’s 1981 “Computerworld” style with each member and a single instrument/handheld keyboard [okay, MIDI controller – it’s no longer 1981…]  as they began to play the night’s incredible deepcut as seen below.


Mother McCree! I never imagined I’d be hearing this one, and never in this fashion. The song made for four straight tracks from “Architecture + Morality” in a discrete mini-set that amazed and delighted. This was completely and utterly brilliant! Watching and hearing Mr. Kershaw relentlessly striking the 344 beats of this song was mesmerizing. The song itself? Heartbreaking.

It remained for the concert to flow into more commercial climes for its climax, but at least we had already gotten “If You Leave” out of the way; a good sign. Paul returned to the mic for the melancholic lilt of “What Have We Done” from “Punishment Of Luxury.” The song had been inspired by the experience of putting his dog down [the lyrics refer to this, particularly in verses three and four] but it resonates much further than that seed of inspiration. Having this followed by the facile “So In Love” didn’t do the latter any favors, but it was OMD’s first US top 30 hit, and at least they did it without a hit movie to hitch it to.

“Locomotion” was a weak moment from “Junk Culture,” but it still sounded good in the context of this live set, sounding better than ever for some reason this evening. Then they dropped a zinger in the home stretch with the excellent title track to “Punishment Of Luxury” kicking the energy levels way up with its “hey-hey-hey” hook [cribbed from Van Halen, I swear…!] This one sported some some muscular substance amid the last two pop trifles and it still had enough hooks for a bait and tackle shop. Was there ever an OMD song that could inspire fist-pumping like this one?

The only song that remained in the set from the Phase II [Andy only] period was the Glitteresque “Sailing On The Seven Seas.” Then the relentless Roland rhythm box announced that “Enola Gay” was taking off to end the set. Fortunately this song constitutes the last thing possible to bombing. Bass in hand, McCluskey blew through it, stopping only for the terrifying middle eight where the instruments dropped out for the rhythm box and the shockwave drum slams from Mr. Kershaw. Then the song ended with the band stopping playing to leave the rhythm box still chugging away as the band left the stage for… oh about a minute before playing the encore.

OMD take their last bows

Two more American hits followed with “Dreaming” and Paul’s hit “Secret” providing a little pop froth and a chance to sit down for a few before the still dynamic “Electricity” brought the evening to a close and my wife and I back to our feet. Maybe drummer Kershaw was hitting the drums a little more vehemently this evening? As we roared our approval, the gent in front of me reflected on his first OMD concert ever. It’s important to remember that every concert is some fan’s first one. For my experience, concert number five was another fine dip into the waters of OMD, tinted this time with five of the best tracks from the their outstanding new album. Sure, sure. Maybe “Art Eats Art” or “As We open, So We Close” might have been gilding the lily, but I would not have balked at the inclusion of those. The only bone of contention I really had was that no material from the “English Electric” album was in evidence. I had missed that tour since it bypassed the Southeast entirely in 2013. The last opening set in 2016 I saw was also bereft, leaving an EE void in my life. Sigh.


The night’s sound by the infamous “Charles “Chicky” Reeves was pretty much flawless following the blurry murk of the opening act, thank goodness! The sound was clear and punchy with plenty of dynamic range and no overmodulation. As ever, when communing with the gods, earplugs are to be only used as a last resort. When seeing a core collection act like OMD [or last year’s King Crimson], the fact was that earplugs were not necessary by means of the band’s taste and intelligence. And organs shifting with every kick drum were simply not possible.

The setlist this evening was well-considered and in the aftermath, I was impressed with the ratio of perfunctory pop with more substantial tracks from their career.

OMD | Center Stage Setlist | Atlanta, April 10th, 2018

  1. POL Overture
  2. Ghost Star
  3. Isotype
  4. Messages
  5. Tesla Girls
  6. History of Modern Part 1
  7. One More Time
  8. Forever Live And Die
  9. If You Leave
  10. Souvenir
  11. Joan Of Arc
  12. Maid Of Orleans
  13. Time Zones/Right Side/Decimal Interlude
  14. Of All The Things We’ve Made
  15. What Have We Done
  16. So In Love
  17. Locomotion
  18. Punishment Of Luxury
  19. Sailing
  20. Enola Gay
  21. Dreaming
  22. Secret
  23. Electricity

There were only five lightweight songs here that allowed me to have a seat break. I’ll give “Locomotion” a pass this evening as it sounded right in the set. Is it me, or are the proportions of chaff to wheat in OMD’s set reducing over time? It just may be that with frequent [but not too frequent] US touring, and the band moving from strength to strength on their new studio albums [made in their own good sweet time with no label pressures] that the band has managed to wrangle a late in the game creative renaissance and have the audience to show for it? They played Atlanta for the third time [actually bedroom community Alpharetta on the Barenaked Ladies 2016 Summer tour of 2016] since reforming in 2006 and sold out a medium sized venue. Also consider that their new album hit #3 on Billboard’s Independent chart as well as #4 in the main British album charts. Not too shabby for a bunch of old dudes with bad knees. It could just be that their better material is gaining an edge on their mushy middle period in the mid 80s. At this rate, the next time they step onto US stages could see songs like “So In Love” and “Dreaming” taking the fall for something far better. I think they are up for it. This band clearly know how to serve up a fantastic show that is increasingly playing to their substantial strengths.

– 30 –

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OMD Rock Hot-Lanta In Sold Out Style [part 1]

OMD returned to Atlanta seven years later and sold out Centerstage

Last Sunday my friends phoned me to tell me that they would not be making it to Atlanta for the long-planned OMD show. Well, this sort of thing happens. I posted the extra tickets to the blog on Sunday after hearing that and maybe someone could use the tickets. I had tried to give them to friends, but no takers. We drove to Atlanta on the scenic route and checked in to our Inman Park lodgings. After a rest and refresh, I was in my classic OMD “look” for the show [black slacks, white shirt, and OMD tie.] Yes, I’m that big a geek! When we were getting ready to step out for dinner beforehand, I received a notification on my device. An email arrived from the blog contact form from Darlene asking if I still had the tickets. Since I had them on the blog for almost two days with no bites, on the drive there, I had decided to let them go for less than cover if anyone wanted them. I emailed back to Darlene and gave her the nod. We would meet prior to the show for the exchange.

My wife and I had a lovely dinner at Ecco beforehand and arrived to have time to find our general admission seats. Center Stage was a nice large room with a 1100 capacity; much of it seated. When OMD had played in Atlanta in 2011, they had played The Loft, a smaller concrete bunker attached to the Center Stage facility for medium sized shows. We were packed in there tightly, but I’m not sure if it was sold out or not. This evening, OMD had reaped the spoils of frequent touring in America since reforming. The opening set on the huge Barenaked Ladies 2016 summer tour [and strong, vital albums] must have paid off. They had sold out Center Stage that had double the capacity of The Loft. I had last seen a show at Center Stage when seeing my first Cocteau Twins show on their “Heaven + Las Vegas” US tour. Darlene would meet me at around 8:15, once she traveled from her point of origin in one of Atlanta’s many bedroom communities that litter its margins.

There was a good selection of nice merch here this evening

When my wife and I found seats to our liking, I hit the merch table. The tour book is always a must and at $15, this one was one of the least expansive ones I’d seen in years. It was made from heavyweight flat paper that gave a great look to the “Punishment Of Luxury” color scheme. Several t-shirts called to me. I had a hard time since usually I will always opt for the shirt with dates I attended on the back, but this time my gaze was fixed to something else.

Instead, I opted for the classic, 10-losenge OMITD cover design in black/orange as seen at left and the crazy rainbow foil “Punishment Of Luxury” artwork on gray heather at right. I also saw that OMD were asking any attendees to pitch in if they wanted for their upcoming 40th anniversary book.

Do you have any OMD memories? E-mail them to omdbook@gmail.com

So this should yield a lot of contributions for that project. I also saw that behind the merch area, there was a KORG synthesizer on the floor for some, unknown reason.

KORG in the house… but on the floor

Your guess was as good as mine as to why this vintage synth was sitting on the floor at an OMD show. I thought they had sampled all of their old gear into their Roland Fantom workstations. I was taking the effort to see if I saw a pair of checkered Vans belonging to commenter Jeremy K, but the only pair I saw in the whole place was in the merch line ahead of me and belonged to a woman.  Maybe one day Jeremy and I will recon at some ATL show, but not this evening.

I was still in the line when I heard the opening act, GGOOLLDD begin at 7:30 sharp. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I had sampled GGOOLLDD online and was horrified at what befell my ears.  They were a synth rock act with a female lead singer with one of those horrifying tremulous little girl voices that have proliferated since the 90s with a ton of vibrato – my least favorite vocal footprint. When watching their video with my wife I remarked that maybe Stevie Nicks was no longer my least favorite vocalist any longer [this was QUITE a statement…] so it’s fair to say that I was not looking forward to GGOOLLDD’s performance, but seeing as the show was general admission, if we wanted seats to our liking, this necessitated viewing the band. From the merch area outside the room, it sounded pretty awful. Then I walked inside and saw the band.

GGOOLLDD – The singer had bleached her hair since this press photo

The singer was dressed ludicrously in a pair of shorts that were too tight and too short, with some kind of garter belt/chains [?] attached to her thighs. Her every move an awkward, contrived pose that hurt to watch. The band all looked like what I would call the Heavy Metal Paint Crew. Hairy dudes with long hair and white t-shirts and white jeans. It was a massive onstage disconnect as seemingly random elements completely failed to congeal into any sort of coherent, or even merely interesting whole. In concert, her shoes lit up. And her cape, which she fluttered like a golden butterfly. I blanched when she did the cartwheel. My wife opined that she was maybe the granddaughter of someone reasonably powerful and that she took a “rock presentation” class at her community college. There was not one iota of her performance that was honest or in any way genuine.

I normally like artistic contrivance, and can often prefer it to “authenticity,” but this was artless contrivance. The worst of both worlds. This seemed like a cry for help. The singer spoke a lot and apologized for her voice, which she said was going out on her, but if that happened, she said she could compensate with interpretive dance.  I thought that if she had maybe a shred of a clue about how to properly sing, maybe her voice would not be going. As it was I felt really embarrassed for her, but maybe that’s a generational thing. If so, then heaven help us. Oh, and one more thing, the band’s sound was muddy and distorted as hell! This spectacle sounded as bad as it looked. I could only hope that OMD at least sounded better than this. It ended after 30 none-too-brief minutes. This was without a doubt the worst musical/stage performance I had ever witnesses in my 54 years. Costuming, presentation, movement, and staging were absolutely the bottom of the barrel. I have no memory of any music.

Next: …Things Get Better… A Hell Of A Lot Better!

 

 

Posted in Concert Review, Core Collection, Designed By Peter Saville | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

REDUX: The Blue Monday Ripoffs

March 3, 2014

new order - blue monday UK12AIt was almost 31 years prior to the day when  the seminal New Order single “Blue Monday” was initially released. The 12″ sporting a floppy disc inspired sleeve was issued by Factory on March 3, 1983 and once it hit the street it was utterly ubiquitous! Everyone wanted a copy and you heard it playing all over the place; even in the sleepy Central Florida backwater where I lived at the time. It had the deliberate, relentlessly inhuman, drum machine sound that was completely futuristic for that period. Arty club music would never be the same again as New Order embraced a vision of electric dance music that was arguably as Post-Kraftwerk as the Art Of Noise would be just a few months later in the year. Of course it would have repercussions in the marketplace. Today, we’ll look at three of the more obvious releases that traveled in its wake.

Fiction Records | UK | 12

Fiction Records | UK | 12″ | 1983 | ficsx 18

The Cure: The Walk UK EP [1983]

  1. The Upstairs Room
  2. The Dream
  3. The Walk
  4. Lament

The Cure were only remotely connected to New Order by being a moderately successful, angst-ridden New Wave band ca. 1983, but they were just coming into their second wind as pop stars making the shift from cult act to really shifting some units. Their commercial line in the sand seems to have been the “Let’s Go To Bed” single from the prior year.  In America, where “Bed” gave them a profile for the first time, the follow up was this single, sold as a 6-track EP. The A-side was “The Walk,” a track that reached the street on July 5, 1983 and sounded for all the world like a re-write of “Blue Monday.”

The synth bass locked in unison with a very similar, relentless drum machine pattern marked this single as being as close to “Blue Monday” as possible while still retaining an identity of its own as a Cure song. To its benefit, I have to admit that I prefer the singing and lyrics of Robert Smith on this track to “Blue Monday.”  Smith wins me over vocally whereas Bernard Sumner is absolutely not the reason why anyone wanted to hear “Blue Monday.” Sorry, Barney. The nimble rhythm guitar here is also a pleasure that makes this track distinct from its progenitor.

divine - love reactionUK12A

Divine: Love Reaction UK 12″ [1983]

  1. Love Reaction
  2. Love Reaction [instrumental]

The development of Waters Superstar Divine into a disco star was not an event that I ever would have predicted. But as sure as it happened, his initial brace of singles made with hi-NRG maven Bobby Orlando were enough to get him a club following where his notoriety was all of the publicity that his fans needed to give him a second career as a recording artist. “Love Reaction” was an astonishing lift of the “Blue Monday” sound via what sounded like a slightly pitch-shifted sampling of the New Order record with Divine providing the rudimentary vocals and a cursory synth lead line providing a bolted-on melody to lend it its only differentiation from “Blue Monday.”

I like the cheap hi-NRG Bobby Orlando sound on the face of it, but this record is not where I’d go to hear it first. It’s just too derivative, and more to the point, Orlando was not capable of taking the inspiration from “Blue Monday” and then doing something with it. This barely sounds like a song, and let’s be frank. If Divine were not on the sleeve, no one in their right mind would want to hear this.

Factory | UK | LP | 1983 | FACT75

Factory | UK | LP | 1983 | FACT75

New Order: Power, Corruption + Lies UK LP [1983]

  1. Age Of Consent
  2. We All Stand
  3. The Village
  4. 5 8 6
  5. Your Silent Face
  6. Ultraviolence
  7. Ecstasy
  8. Leave Me Alone

Finally, in a move no one really expected, New Order themselves provided a “Blue Monday” soundalike on the album that quickly followed “Blue Monday” in the marketplace, but in a typical New Order move, did not contain any of their singles at the time, which were all non-LP. That didn’t stop them from all but cloning “Blue Monday” to provide the blueprint for a track called “5 8 6” on the “Power, Corruption + Lies” album. One has to ask why they bothered, unless that felt they couldn’t get away with a seven track album, and bristled at the thought of including “Blue Monday” on an album. “5 8 6” is not much of a track. It is the cut that drags down the otherwise sterling “Power, Corruption + Lies” album from being a complete career best.

At the end of the day, The Cure win at this particular gambit. They made a weird New Order wannabe record that is sort of the odd one out in their discography, but at least it’s recognizable as a Cure song even in its “Blue Monday” drag. Speaking of drag, Divine would be rightly fêted for a brace of singles as produced by Stock, Aitken, Waterman that immediately followed “Love Reaction” in his discography. They are realms superior to this derivative and inconsequential track that does neither Divine nor Bobby “O” any favors. Finally, the decision of New Order to plagiarize themselves was one of those head-scratching moments that clearer thinking might have helpfully prevented.

– 30 –

Posted in Blast From The Past, Core Collection, Designed By Peter Saville, seminal single | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments