I knew from the onset that this was going to be a weird one, but when a favorite band… a core collection, favorite band, were appearing just a few hours away, I thought it was crazy not to go. Besides, my history with OMD was largely as an opening act! Living in the US southeast, OMD tours, back in the 80s were few and far between. I’ve only ever seen a single tour where they headlined. And that was five years ago. It was time to once again see the band who fill a large swath in my Record Cell.
The lineup was weird. The headliners were Barenaked Ladies, a band I’d never cared for but have at least been aware of since day one. They were just making a name for themselves in Canada back in 1992, during my first visits there. They were apparently in a synthpop mood, since they picked OMD and Howard Jones to be their opening acts. I was not excited about Jones, but I can take a song or two of his [provided it’s the right one], so the idea was to get there for Jones’ set. Provide him with some polite support as the grounds filled up because it’s sad to see an opener play to a sparsely filling-up venue, then see OMD and maybe split. That’s not how it panned out, exactly. I was in Raleigh with the friends that I had seen OMD with in 2011 and we were tooling around the city, looking for places to eat. We had wanted to get a sandwich at The Remedy Diner before the show and dine at Sitti [Lebanese] afterward. Sitti closed at 10:00 P.M. Since both restaurants were in walking distance from the venue, it seemed possible, but by the time we got out of the Remedy Diner, it was just past showtime of 6:30.
We walked about a half mile to the Red Hat Amphitheater and could hear the strains of “New Song” on the slight winds which were our friends. I’m not used to seeing outdoor shows at “sheds” as the industry nomenclature calls them. Slabs of concrete with seats for you and a stage to protect the band should there be rain. Show happens rain or shine. As this was in the North Carolina Piedmont, it could be blazingly hot, but that day we lucked out. There was a 30% thunderstorm warning, but the hazy clouds were enough to block the sun while not actually raining. There was even a breeze, so we were happy.
Until we entered the venue and heard Jones playing. It seemed really loud, and I had regretted not bringing earplugs, but I figured the noise ordinances would prevent it from being too loud. We got there at the end of a Jones hit I can’t remember, but the sight of Jones onstage with a drummer/synth player; jumping around on the stage in white jeans was disconcerting. Then things got worse. We actually saw Jones check his wristwatch during the song! I realize that bands playing an inner-city venue need to mind their schedules because curfew will come sooner than you know it, but it just looked poor. Couldn’t a roadie flash a penlight or something to let them know it was five minutes left?
Then Jones went into what would be his last song that night. “Things Can Only Get Better,” one of his big US hit singles. Not a fave, but better than some I could name… until he raved the song up into faux EDM space for the climax to his set. My friend Tom put it snarkily: “…too bad I forgot my Ecstasy!” A sad moment in Howard Jones-land. The guy was never the sharpest tack in the carpet to me but this just seemed cringeworthy. And then it was over. Just in the nick of time! I would not have wanted to see/hear much more of this. I have always considered Howard Jones to be the nail in synthpop’s coffin, and this gig; one and a half songs that I managed to see, did nothing to dispel that notion. Not by a long shot.
Next: …Eleven Singles by OMD