Sigh. I try to live the Google-free life but it’s a tough and miserly row to hoe. Against my expectations, I was not doing landscaping work on Saturday afternoon and was thus able to catch the OMD “Live From Your Sofa” online event as it went down. If you missed it, I’ve heard that it will be on YouTube for the next few days. It was an interesting portrait of this Core Collection band at the 40 year point of their history. But not all of it was modern.
Of course I definitely had an interest in seeing the band perform the first song, the incomparable “Stanlow.” Long my favorite OMD song (for about 40 years) and hardly in danger of losing that cachet, it was something that I’d never seen before live or on video. I’m pleased to see that the band recognize its emotive power is second to none if they will open a 40 year tour with it. Watching the band perform this I could not get Kraftwerk and the passing of Florian Schneider out of my mind. The four figures still on the darkened stage brought their progenitors to the forefront. Seeing Paul Humphreys standing at his keyboard got me a little misty eyed. Then the propulsive “Isotype” from their latest album, “Punishment Of Luxury” had even closer musical ties to the clean, modern techno pop of the Düsseldorf foursome, but the way that the band approached the song emotionally was of a vastly different tact. As much as OMD take from the Kraftwerk template, they are still their own band.
The rest of the first set dove into their bucket of hit singles that showed their enviable strengths at writing songs with unique points of view starting with their first British hit, the durable “Messages.” Then came a torrent of eclectic hits beginning with the wit of “Tesla Girls” and continuing through to the trilogy of hits that “Architecture + Morality” issued at some sort of peak synergy of artistic and commercial success that every band wished would happen to them.
Then the intermission that had been cut from the program happened and the band came back onstage for another pair of deep cut classics with the heartbreaking “Statues” followed by their first b-side, “Almost.” One has to love the fealty that OMD pay to their artistic essence. And how fortunate for them that singe written barely bout of their teens were so mature and timeless. Which made the rest of the second set disappointing in comparison. Following “Almost” they played a new song from their “Souvenir” greatest hits collection that, believe it or not, I had not heard yet. “Don’t Go” was on shaky ground in that the title was taken from a refrain from “So In Love;” hardly one of their finest hours from the “play-to-the-market” regrettable section of their career. Musically a bit better than that, but the gist of the song was solidly in their wheelhouse of their post-“Dazzle Ships” write-hits-or-die era. That they actually followed it with “So In Love” was a poor decision which did “Don’t Go” absolutely no favors. Then only “Punishment Of Luxury” and the venerable classic “Enola Gay” managed to help us make it through the trip of “Dreaming,” “Sailing On The Seven Seas,” and “Locomotion.” The latter a single that I liked at first only to come to loathe in the 21st century.
The encore was problematic. That this band played a show in England for their 40th anniversary and then encored with their biggest American hit, the sappy “If You Leave” (which was not a hit in England) showed poor judgement. Then to follow that with the solo Andy era song of “Pandora’s Box” which sounded not a bit like OMD in spite of having that name on the sleeve was disappointing. Then the show closed as they all do, with their cheeky re-write of Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity,” which we all know and love as “Electricity.”
There was so much right to be enjoyed by this band who are making excellent modern records with none of the songwriting compromises that marred their mid period. And yet that material, which admittedly gave the band a second lease on life following the commercially disastrous (but artistically wondrous) “Dazzle Ships” album still is included in their sets. Hearing it is jarring next to the superb early hit material and the music they have released in the last decade. I really wish after three strong albums that they would “Do a Bowie” and after these anniversary shows simply table songs like “Locomotion” or “Dreaming.” They have served their purpose. They prolonged the commercial life of the band but were the cause of its breakup in 1988. So their cost must be questioned. I’d love to see those hits swept under the carpet of history. The band would seem so much stronger without them. And only American audiences care about those songs in the first place. I’d even go as far as suggesting that deep cuts from “Crush” or “Pacific Age” might fly with me. And any OMD material written without Paul Humphrey should also be tabled.
Regarding the presentation of this show, I really loved the single camera p.o.v. with a single setup from the lighting desk capturing everything at a reasonable framing. Sure, sure. Sometimes Andy wandered out of shot but the lack of “direction” and gratuitous jimmyjib swoops and thousands of split second cuts made this a pleasure to watch. Like at a real concert, I could “direct” my eyes wherever I wanted to in watching it. I wish more concert home videos were like that.
On the other hand, the formula of an OMD concert is showing its age. Open with a song or two (not obvious hits) and then follow it with “Messages.” End the first set with “Souvenir,” “Joan Of Arc,” and “Maid Of Orleans.” End the second set with “Enola Gay.” Final encore – “Electricity.” That should change. It’s too rote.
Another interesting aspect to this streaming concert was the “virtual merch table.” The band were going to table their summer gigs due to covid-19 but widely thought to make the new merch still available. A glance there revealed that the classic 1981 enamel badges had been remanufactured anew! That was great but my eyes were transfixed on the stunning “Maid Of Orleans” t-shirt that commanded my finger to click the button. £25 (U$ 32) and with shipping from the UK not exactly cheap but I really wanted that one. And when my wife entered and saw it she asked if I was going to buy that. “I’d love to,” I retorted and she said “you should,” so seconds later I was into it to the amount of $41 and change. And no regrets there. Better still, I mentioned to her that I regretted missing that lovely gold foil on red PiL short of a few years back. Then I went to PiL’s web store and it was there for a third time, now cheaper and with US shipping, so I bought that one yesterday too. Scratching a sartorial itch I’d had for a couple of years.
The OMD concert will be up on their YouTube page for at least a few days so if you care to partake then have at it, but quickly. And if that shirt calls to you like it did to me, then click that button below!
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I fully agree with your review of the show Monk. The “hits era” tracks jar now and the lack of enthusiasm for by the London audience for If You Leave was telling. I figure if they can work Stanlow and Almost into their set, they can at least manage a more British centric set list for that audience. If they could save the “hits” for the 80s rewind type shows.
But I did enjoy the show. It was close in set list to the 2018 show I saw in St. Pete, and that was one of the best shows, energy-wise I had seen in a while.
Oh and that Maid of Orleans T-Shirt is mine now as well…
Echorich – Technically, this was a 80s Rewind type show. Any band around for this long would have to try hard to avoid that. But I wish they would. I often count how many songs from a show of core collection bands I see (and that would be OMD, Simple Minds, and Bryan Ferry over the years) and count how many tracks in the set were singles. It’s usually 85% but Ferry manages a much lower number – maybe 50%.
Hey Andy ,Paul ! its not you , its me .. or is it ? Well I tried to watch it but gave up. We have come a long way from when I first saw OMD in Valentinos night club in Edinburgh and then years later in Brighton 84 0r 85 ish? I just can not listen to anything from the last 3 albums. To my ears its like Euro Disco or at worst was “isotype” a Eurovion entry. Give me the days of “Bunker Soldiers” or “Red Frame” anytime. I would rather have that Faltering sound of the first 2 albums than the highly polished chrome of the last lot….. so yes it is me.
Ade.W – I like the last three albums but the fact is that they are using soft sunths to produce the music and the lack of texture and grit that their music had in the beginning due to their sound design makes an impact. The “Dresden” remix by John Foxx + The Maths is the best they’ve sounded in the latest phase due to the all-analog signal path that Benge used. But I still like their contemporary songwriting miles better than their “middle period.”
Monk, I take it you mean middle period being “Junk, Crush and Pacific”. I am not as down on these albums as some, but I do not own copys of “universal”, liberator or “Sugar tax” so that is the end period, the 3 new ones the reboot or reformed.
Ade. W – Except for “Locomotion,” I really enjoy “Junk Culture.” But it was the transitional album. “Universal’s” title track is among the very best OMD songs.
I wish to pick up on a few of your points.
There was no intermission; cut or not cut from the programme. The concert was a constant 110 minutes of music, appreciation and crowd interaction (most of that was cut; you saw the picture jumps, taking it down to just over 95 minutes). After the euphoria of Maid Of Orleans had died down we were immediately treated to the updated Time Zones montage as the band came down to the front of the stage for Statutes and then Almost.
The concert tour was “Souvenir – OMD 40 Years” so the set list was packed with songs promoting their entire singles collection on a 2 CD set. The few non-singles were included to keep the die-hard OMD fans from moaning, which they are world record holders at doing.
If You Leave was an odd choice for a UK gig as it most certainly was not a hit here, but it gave Martin an excuse to use the saxophone twice rather than just the once as in So In Love. Dreaming was not only a huge hit in Britain but it is well recognised because so many causal OMD pop fans only bought The Best Of and of course that single was on there but not on any studio album.
“a formula showing its age” is actually an OMD tradition, having Messages played third and Electricity played last before the encore. It works for a well balanced concert.
That show was standing-only within the stalls which is always a delight for an OMD gig. Seats just mean lazy middle aged couples complain they can’t see anything when the fans stand.
Talking of seats, maybe OMD can play a thought provoking arty gig where the punters sit and rub their chins pensively. It is hardly a fun though. Believe me; Red Frame White Light just does not work live. I was at the sound check so I know.
I do agree about the joy of camera angles not being controlled by a hyperactive child. It meant we had the time to enjoy what we saw.
OMD are superb fun live and that is why I saw them five times on that tour. It was worth every penny. It will be released on DVD too.
I was rather underwhelmed by the gig. For me the whole promotion of the ‘event’ was to get the feeling of being in an OMD concert while sat at home as we can’t go to any at the moment. Stanlow was wonderful (and I was so pleased the audience waited until the song had completely finished before they started clapping, which they didn’t at the Liverpool Philharmonic gig and ruined a unique never to repeated performance) and it was great to hear the Paul and Andy starting to talk to the audience but then there was a very obvious edit as it jumped to Isotype. So really there was little difference between this and putting on one of there far too many live CDs. I was hoping Ghost Light would be played, but it wasn’t. I find the Sugar Tax, Etc Andy only OMD tracks in the gigs very irritating as they are pretty naff and mean we don’t get other better tracks instead. Also totally agree with the Monks comment about If You Leave, it wasn’t a big hit here so why play it. OMD have in recent years done some great shows with the early material so it’s a shame they’ve reverted back to the hits list again, and not even the best hits either.
Richard Anvil – Well, it was a 40th Anniversary Greatest Hits Tour, so all things considered it was about 75% on point. But “If You Leave” was a total head scratcher in England. And they do have too many live CDs I think I have three and will end it there. Could be worse. It could be Simple Minds.
No harm in posting the concert to fans. I missed it.
Let me guess. Andy dressed in black. The two others behind keyboards. Drummer on a riser. Outside of Stanlow ,Almost and Statues, the same old OMD. I still listen to the first three albums and saw them live on the original A&M tour and a few others in 83/84/85.
They are well passed their sell by date. By 30 years. Last three albums did 0 for me. And I listened to them several times and even saw them live on the last tour and walked out.
They could do a more interesting set list but that is not what the general fan wants. It’s the same with most of those bands. Simple Minds. New Order. Depeche Mode. The Cure do mix it up if you can stand a three hour show. New Order also mixed it up once for a show turn reverted back to the same old formula.
Can’t blame them. Earning a living.
Now. What will the future hold?
Jordan – I liked that first three hour Cure show a lot. The second one a few years later? Not so much. Ferry makes great set lists as these things go.
Duncan, ‘Dreaming’ was not a big hit in the UK. It only made 50 in the charts. That’s two places worse than ‘If You Leave’. In fact the single was released twice in 1988 by the record company because of it’s poor showing on its original release. It still failed to be a hit.
As a long standing fan I would have liked more of their early stuff but I understand that this was a celebration of 40 years of the band. Plenty of people got into the band on the back their 80s singles. Therefore the band had a balancing act of trying to please everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed the show.
I’m shocked to see so much negativity around the OMD material from this decade peppering the comments. In my mind this music has been nothing short of a miracle. I’m in on that shirt!
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I imagine that many artists must feel an obligation to always play certain songs for the benefit of those in the audience seeing them live for the first time (I was both surprised and pleased to see that Gary Numan’s most recent live release does NOT include “Cars”). And then there are acts who heavily favor obscure selections in their setlists, much to the consternation of casual and hardcore fans alike. Seems rare when an artist tour can strike the balance.
I found the OMD show to be quite entertaining – reminded me of the 2018 tour in terms of material. And the 2013 tour. And, err, the 2011 tour. Point well taken about predictability. Despite that, I still have few complaints. I always enjoy the chit chat between songs that was edited out of this presentation, so that was a bit disappointing. And the wide camera perspective was dull but functional. Also, I’ve never liked “Locomotion” and wouldn’t be bothered if I never heard it again – live or otherwise.
My wife started watching a bit later in the stream, and asked if they had played “the one about the actress.” I replied that they had not performed “Pandora’s Box”, and thought it unlikely that they would. That it was the next to last song of the set was a bit of a shocker. However, it stands to reason that “Pandora’s Box”, “If You Leave”, and “Dreaming” made the cut to shift CDs and vinyl in the US.
By the way, Le Poisson Rouge finally emailed on Friday to advise that Heaven 17’s NYC show scheduled for May 17 has been postponed to February 3. I’m really hoping the ‘fascist groove thang’ ends here in the US before that.
May you and the missus continue to stay safe and sane during the pandemic.
PS. Thanks for the hot tip on that PiL shirt – I’ve also been looking to add that to my wardrobe :-)
Shelf – Well, the band recorded new material because they didn’t t want to be relegated to the nostalgia circuit. Just saying guys… 4 songs from the last decade in a full set is kind of skimpy. I totally loved the 2018 gigs with the “Ghost Star” opening and the Kraftwerk ‘81 presentation of “Of All The Things We’ve Made.” Yup. Chasinvictoria sent me the new Heaven 17 dates. I’m not too confident that I want to be driving up to Chicago in the middle of January. A few months later and not only would the weather be better, we might want to venture out of our cave. I’m not very optimistic that we will be safe resuming normal operations by January. Not by a long shot.
The reality for many acts like OMD is that large sections of their live audience are just not hard core fans by any means hence a hit stuffed setlist that plays it safe.
Bryan Ferry is quite brave in the structure of some of his set lists, if only he would cut Jealous Guy out! But when you see the audience you know that sadly many really do just want the hits and you can feel the uncertainty when the more obscure stuff is played.
The alternative is gigs in smaller venues for the dedicated focussing on deep cuts, very unlikely to happen.
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SimonH – Ah, but his version of “Jealous Guy” was definitive.
SimonH – Well, when Simple Minds played “This Fear Of Gods” on a “greatest hits” tiny tour of America in 2013, there was no uncertainty as I was fully immersed in the action of actually losing my mind at a concert!
According to twitter there is an “80’s Lockdown Fest” coming up on Youtube Saturday May 16th 7PM (no classification of what time zone that is).
We have (among others)
and assorted others ranging from Toyah to Musical Youth.
There’s linkage over on twitter if you look up Mr. Fry.
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Tim – Hmm. I can’t make a habit of this! There’s little time to do the things I’d prefer to do much less the things I really must do! This week has seen me spending a lot of time finessing a resume/cover for a job apoplication. I always sweat the details big time for those. I have a book design project nipping at my heels as well as CDs I’d love to make. Which is the finest use of my time, if you’re me.
I enjoyed the show, warts (Andy era songs) and all. Most of it blended together rather well, and nearly all of it showcased their strong songwriting. Having only seen OMD actually live once decades ago, I enjoyed both the music and the light show/stage antics/ambience — and despite my visit to the virtual march table, the price for this was staggeringly right!
The virtual merch table was stressful! I managed to snag a couple items that I had had on my want list, but others vanished into the ether before I could click fast enough.
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