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Late September of 2015 brought the DLX package of “Dazzle Ships At The Museum Of Liverpool” and it was the next step up from the previous OMD limited edition live album. This was also a hardcover book package, but it came in a die-cut slipcase that echoed the original “Dazzle Ships” cover design, and the first and last pages held not only a CD but also a DVD of the event. The show was said to draw heavily upon the “Dazzle Ships” album because of the live dazzle ship in dry dock at the Museum at the time, but the band also not only a song from that album which had never been performed live before. To sweeten the deal, the “missing parts” of “Dazzle Ships [parts I, IV, V, VI]” would be available to those who attended or bought the CD/DVD package as a DL. Fan scuttlebutt on the OMD forum pointed to the incredible “International” as the one, and I would have paid whatever the cost had I been in the UK to attend were that the case.
The CD began with the familiar “Dazzle Ships [parts II, III, + VII]” but these were just pre-show playback of the original musique concrete. Then came another dazzling vignette; “ABC Auto Industry.” Performed again on playback with the band performing semaphore flagwork as they did on the fateful 1983 tour to accompany the track. Then the concert began in earnest with…”Sealand?” Yeaaaah, the long deep cut from “Architecture + Morality” felt right in a “Dazzle Ships” show, but it revealed that it was not a literal show of just that album.
“Messages” is usually an early-in-set energy boost, but five songs in and only two “Dazzle Ships” tracks thus far, and just playback on those. Then we’re given the gift of “Radio Waves,” a song I was fortunate to see in 2011 since it’s the best single they never released, and one of the scant “Dazzle Ships” songs I’ve heard live in America. Followed by the evasive “Genetic Engineering!” Now we’re going places. Shame that the intro was on playback, but I get it. They would have to get a woman onstage for 30 seconds otherwise. Awkward, and we don’t want them adding a female backing singer for the whole show. For the first time here, I could just about make out what Andy was singing on the middle eight. It still sounded almost shocking to hear the bitterly ironic nursery rhyme played live. In the accompanying book Paul Humphreys revealed that they felt that they nailed it live for the first time ever, though they hardly played it any time post-1983.
“Julia’s Song” made a welcome appearance, followed by a variation on the “A+M suite” as I call it. This time the three songs played were “She’s Leaving,” “Souvenir” and “Joan Of Arc [Maid Of Orleans].” The biggest difference of the night manifested here, on “Maid Of Orleans.” The difference in the programmed drums [on reel-to-reel tape, as played on “Winston”] as compared to the live attack of the absent Malcolm Holmes was palpable. The beats this evening were unvarying and mechanically perfect; how unlike the jazzy energy of Holmes live. The percussive regimentation this evening gave the song a much more streamlined, mechanical feel. Quite different to the more awe-inspiring live performance of this song that we are all used to, but certainly interesting, if not breathtaking.
Then, we had two from “Dazzle Ships” and I’m assuming that the B-side “4-Neu” was the song never played live before. It was as gentle and delicate as it had to b, and it was followed by the devastating “International,” complete with an updated and extended political soundbite introduction. McCluskey absolutely nailed the intensity necessary to carry the song here. Then, another curveball; “Metroland” from “English Electric” was played next. I have to appreciate this recording since it seems to be my fate that I might never hear anything live from “English Electric” in person. The two times I’ve seen OMD since this show were completely bereft of any EE material, strangely enough.
The show wrapped with a selection that included “Sister Marie Says,” “Sailing On The Seven Seas” [which stood out among the material that constituted the bulk of this show], “Enola Gay,” and “Electricity.” The encore was a song to end the evening on a properly somber note. They played the seventh track from “Dazzle Ships” that night; “The Romance Of The Telescope.” So all in all, about half of the historically misunderstood album got an airing, thought the first two songs were strictly playback.
“The good news is we’ve raised thousands for the museum. The bad news is …we’ve caused millions in damage!” – Andy McCluskey
Having “Dazzle Ships” as the linchpin of this special show did have the happy side-effect of keeping the show almost free of what I would call OMD chaff; those poppy, compromised songs that were ultimately their undoing. Only “Sailing On The Seven Seas” should have been excised from the setlist. Otherwise, this stood as the best overall live OMD album one could buy, though the loss of live drums from Mr. Holmes colors this set somewhat differently.
The album was also released as a picture disc album [see right] with just six of the tracks strictly from “Dazzle Ships” on a picture disc for maximum fidelity. Both the picture disc and CD/DVD are expensive items to purchase now. That’s a shame because this one is a tossup for their best live recording since it paints the best picture of the band when it came to set list. OMD were releasing better live albums each time out, but only the first one [and the weakest one] was widely available. The rest were released online only either at their webstore or on Pledge Music. And this would continue as we’ll see soon.
Next: …What? Another Live Album?