“Nothing to be afraid of, I’m 53 and I dance like an idiot.” Andy McCluskey moved with such agility that he appeared possessed by an elastic band.
Being half his age, with a saturated familiarity to rock but little on New Wave, my knowledge of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark was thin to say the least, and though I had high hopes of recognising ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’, I entered the Grand Arena at GrandWest Casino with some trepidation. What if this concert was just going to be plain boring?
Sitting in Block A, which holds a surprising vantage angle of the stage, a degree of astonishment washed over me as crowds of hyper enthusiastic fans swarmed in. Clearly I had been utterly ignorant of OMD’s popularity.
An opening act was not needed to warm up this crowd – they were amped up enough on sheer anticipation. The arena darkened and eerie yellow search beams navigated the stage. Suddenly a fog horn-like siren cracked through the silence. Was this the beginning of a Zombie invasion?
With one swift movement the majority of the audience jumped to its feet screaming as OMD bounced out on to stage. “Oh, you’re too polite – we don’t do polite,” lead singer Andy McCluskey cajoled the crowd.
Mesmerising, high energy strobe lights energised those not yet caught up in the electro emotion as OMD launched into 22 pieces of music, a massive 18 of which have been released as singles. Several tracks, including ‘Radio Waves’ from the Dazzle Ships album were performed with phenomenal stage presence by the all original cast – Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Malcom Holmes and Martin Cooper. McCluskey paused to take a breath. “The good news is I’ve stopped playing the bass badly. The bad news is the dancing starts now – ‘cause you follow me!” And confident of his response, he teased us with dramatic ‘come hither’ hand gestures. Sure enough the audience was now bopping in the aisles, reliving hilariously convulsive high school dance moves to ‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Souvenir’. Women flocked to the stage, begging for a touch, the thrill of a kiss. I’ve never witnessed an audience at Grand Arena this enthralled, with so much incessant dancing and refreshingly lax aisle regulations.
Whether it was the beckoning hand gestures or the hypnotic strobe lighting, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark had revived some sort of cult following in the audience. Only the most hardened cynic would have attempted to resist the current of ‘synthpop’ New Wave resurgence, as Andy poured water over his head, shaking it off in slow motion, literally transforming the stage into an 80’s music video.
‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ and ’Enola Gay’ sent the Grand Arena audiences into a full throttled frenzy of head swishing, chorused clapping and singing. And I was totally there with them, riding that wave as one of the converted masses.
After an utterly raucous, out of control encore, OMD performed ‘Walking on the Milky Way’, “which was new, from 1996!” and the much awaited ‘Electricity’.
The great thing about music from an era gone by – whether you’re a fan or a recent convert – is that the lyrics are always echoing an ethos; ‘But just remember who you are, where you’ve been, you’ve come so far …And never ever let them see you fall. I don’t believe in miracles, I don’t believe in truth, I don’t believe that anything can recreate your youth.’
While these words of wisdom ring so true, attending an Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark concert is the closest I’ve come to seeing such a vast following of happy people, dancing in honour of the decades of their misspent youth. And there is nothing synthesized in being part of that kind of exuberance.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark performed on 2 August 2012 at the Grand Arena Grandwest.