OMD at the Mountain Winery, by Patric Carver
OMD (photo: Patric Carver)

“The moral of our set is don’t be afraid of middle-aged men from Liverpool. We’ve come to kick your ass with synthesizers.”

That’s how bassist and vocalist Andy McCluskey kicked off OMD‘s set at Mountain Winery last Monday, setting a pretty high expectation for themselves.

They launched into one of the more powerful songs from their set, “Enola Gay.” The manic energy of this song mixed with McCluskey’s bewitching crooning makes for a mood-altering experience. Methamphetamine-like in its ability to make hearts race, “Enola” is one of my favorites, and they bore through the song with a relentless passion.

It was odd to see OMD in the soft, dimming light of evening. Surrounded by vineyards and with birds fluttering about overhead, the crew from across the pond looked a little out of place in their all-black attire. Last time I saw them was at the Regency Ballroom, surrounded by smoke machine fog and dancing blue-and-pink stage lighting. I have to say, I think they fit in a little better on a darkened stage surrounded by the openly intoxicated who would stuff themselves into Lyfts at the end of the show than they did atop a mountain surrounded by the khaki-clad responsible drinkers who needed to get their Priuses down the winding mountain road at the end of the night. There’s a little more comfortable mystery and intrigue when they’re tucked into the crafted shadows of a more traditional rock venue.

McCluskey seemed tapped into this, as he routinely worked in self-effacing jokes about his dancing, the longevity of the band, and his own mistakes on stage. No one does self-effacing like the Brits, and being more visually vibrant on stage seemed to really bring that out more. There were moments in the set that seemed influenced by the environment, too. “Secret” and “Locomotion” seemed slower and less punchy than I’ve previously heard them. Paul Humphreys’ vocals on “Secret” saved that song, but “Locomotion” was lukewarm.

However, even though New Wave is on the oldies stations now, there was nothing geriatric about their set. “Tesla Girls,” though McCluskey’s bass playing wasn’t as tight as it could have been, a wonderfully dizzying whirl. Though it’s not my favorite song, “If You Leave” featured a larynx-busting fermata devoid of vibrato. My lungs hurt after that. It was impressive. Deeper cut “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)” was melting and lovely. The highlight of the show for me was closing song, “Electricity,” with its needle-like keys that reminds me of the Vince Guaraldi Trio‘s jogging jazz numbers produced to accompany the Peanuts cartoons.

I wish that OMD had gone for more of the weird in their collection. Dazzle Ships is an album I’d happily set sail on any day of the week. However, for a Monday night crowd at a winery with $25 per car parking, they probably crafted the perfect set list. People were happy, dancing, and singing along. Our asses were thoroughly kicked with synthesizers, as promised.