Photos by Paige K. Parsons
Following Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s show at the Regency Ballroom Friday evening, no one could claim that that frontman-bassist Andy McCluskey was phoning it in.
The 53-year-old, drenched in sweat in an oversize shirt that he said fit snugly prior to the start of OMD’s current tour, worked the stage for the duration of the band’s nearly two-hour set.
He routinely demonstrated his unique dance moves, shook hands and made the capacity crowd feel he was interacting directly with them. The tour, in support of this year’s English Electric, featured a selection of songs from a majority of the band’s 12 albums, dating back to 1980.
After a brief hiccup – the bass drum was amplified much too loud and drowned out much of the vocals and synths on opening track “Metroland,” off English Electric – the technical issue was fixed by the second song, 1980’s self-titled debut’s “Messages.”
That set the trend for the night, with McCluskey, keyboardists Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper and drummer Malcolm Holmes jumping from album to album, showing that while OMD may not have as many radio hits as other ‘80s artists, their songbook is full of catchy, danceable tunes.
OMD was probably preparing for Coachella when it dusted off “Tesla Girls,” off 1984’s Junk Culture, even though McCluskey dedicated the song to the San Francisco crowd.
“This song is especially for you,” he said. “We should know how to play it; we just haven’t played it in a couple of years.”
Following a couple of newer tunes and a comment about how dancing helps one stay fit, the singer told the crowd it was their turn to dance before launching into “History of Modern Part 1” – a track released in 2010 that easily fits into the mosaic of great ‘80s hits.
Humphreys took to the microphone several times, singing lead on “(Forever) Live and Die,” off 1986’s The Pacific Age; and on “Souvenir,” off third album Architecture & Morality – the one that made the band a household name in 1981. Those interludes were times to give McCluskey a breather between the band’s faster numbers.
OMD’s best-known song, “If You Leave,” was placed midway through the set and introduced as “a song you’ve all danced to at your prom.” If that seems strange, it’s only because the other material is equally strong, if not less distinguishable.
The night’s strongest section came on the one-two punch of new track “Night Café” and Architecture & Morality’s “Joan of Arc.” Two minutes of straight applause brought McCluskey to the brink of tears.
For a band that rose to prominence in the early part of the ‘80s, it made sense that the crowd leaned a bit older. And many appeared to not know – at first – what to make of opener Diamond Rings.
Dressed in all-white with a black leather vest with spike-studded shoulder pads and a slicked-back blonde mop of hair, the 27-year-old singer-guitarist (real name: John O’Regan) led a three-member band through a short set of songs from his two albums.
His strongest songs, “Runaway Love” and “A To Z” blend his goofy dance moves, guitar-playing and intensity.
But it was not until he performed a cover of Jamie Principle’s 1985 song “Waiting On My Angel” that the audience understood his heavily ‘80s-influenced music.