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The year after OMD released “History Of Modern” they fulfilled a long-standing dream by actually crossing the Big Pond and playing a US tour early that Spring. They came as close as Atlanta [where I had first seen them in 1985] and this time I didn’t have to drive nearly 500 miles to see them from Central Florida. My friend Tom and I [we had last seen them in Lakeland, FL in 1986] geeked out and opted for full VIP since this had been a long time in coming. Our wives got to see what all of the fuss was about and we had a spectacular long weekend in Atlanta with top quality dining, good friends, great record shopping, and OMD was the cherry on top.
That US tour was the first since the mid 90s. Emboldened, they staged another jaunt through North America in the Fall of 2011 as well. Then the band announced a limited edition deluxe live album to commemorate this tour and their escape from mere nostalgia act status with a live show recorded in Berlin the previous year.
This was a CD in a hardcover book [158 x 240 mm] with 38 pages of tour photos [from their full tours, not just in Berlin] and a page of essay from each member of the band talking about what it was like to be fully active with a new album to play for the first time since 1986. It was a very nice tourbook-like package that sold only in the band’s webstore for £20. There was a lot of grousing at the price and format in the OMD forum, but I thought these moaners were short sighted. Today, you would be very lucky to pay $27 for one. As limited editions go, £20 is far from the worst I’ve seen, and the end result was very attractive.
There were only six songs [apart from a quartet of tunes from “Architecture + Morality”] that were a holdover from their previous live album out three years earlier, so the songs chosen for inclusion were smartly chosen. Better yet, the inclusion of six tracks [half] from their current, new album was a kick in the right direction. Opening right up with the vibrant and exciting “New Babies, New Toys,” set a great precedent. The new track sounded more energetic when live and painted a powerful picture of the band’s current energy.
I had never heard “Bunker Soldiers” sounding so good as on this album. It was a muscular recasting of the tune with more intelligible singing from the far more seasoned McCluskey. The title track to “History Of Modern” had modern classic status from the get-go. Here it seemed like an old favorite already. “[Forever] Live + Die” sounded different here. There was a burst of white noise in the music bed every time Paul sang “Why” in the chorus, and it was after several listens that I discerned that it had been the audience in the Tempodrome singing along with enough gusto that even though they were not close miked, it spilled over into the recording.
They played a four song “A+M” suite right in the middle of the set. It was great hearing “She’s Leaving” again. The version on the previous live album had nothing on this one. With new material under their belts, the uptick in enthusiasm was palpable here. Of course, the three singles were triumphant with a highlight being the jazzy drum energy invested in “Joan Of Arc [Maid Of Orleans]” by Malcolm Holmes. It jumped out at me that he rarely hit the same beats twice in a row when listening to this version. Of course, the German audience went berserk at the end of that one.
The new material played there in Berlin in November 18th, 2011 was not very far removed from the set list of the US tour I saw four months later. They played similar material from the new album including “New Holy Ground,” one of my favorite deep cuts. The last quarter of the album was a sprint through some of their biggest hits salted with a pair of singles from “History Of Modern;” a good balance, though I could go decades without hearing “If You Want It” ever again. At least in The States, they replaced it in the set with the similar [but arguably superior] “Walking On The Milky Way.”
While some might find a band issuing two live albums within a three year span, the qualitative differences between the two show how much growth they were having in this latest phase. “OMD Live [“Architecture + Morality” and More]” was making up for the live album that had never occurred, but maybe should have in ’79-’88. Maybe they could have taken a break while that was out and get off of the album/tour-go-round that did so much to burn them out. This later album was better for having so much strong new material on it [“If You Want It” excepted] and the band’s vigor and enthusiasm was noticeably in full flower here, as opposed to 2008. The band would go into 2012 with the next album on their minds as they sought to move closer to their ideals and strengths.