ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK (OMD) & TINY MAGNETIC PETS – DE LA WARR, PAVILION, BEXHILL-ON-SEA 15th NOVEMBER 2017
Tonight, the superb Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark are back in Sussex and astonishingly they are performing their very first ever concert at the outstanding De La Warr Pavilion as part of their 20-date UK and Ireland tour. Alas no Brighton date on this current tour, so we ventured eastwards to find out more. But how did the band get to this point………………
I first became aware of OMD when I saw them support the sold out Gary Numan Brighton Dome concert on 5th October 1979. They had in fact only formed in September the previous year despite knowing each other since primary school.
It was these two skinny blokes, one with curly hair who sang and did a funny jerky dance and played guitar and the other bloke was behind a synth. They were accompanied by a TEAC 4-track tape recorder.
Someone in the audience to my right shouted out that they wanted live music. This caused quite a buzz around the audience. This was 1979 and ‘proper’ musicians were afraid that machines were taking away their livelihood and that the machines would replace them. There had been debates in the musicians union and so back then it was topical.
Did this deter these two blokes? Like heck did it! The blokes were Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys and the tape recorder was christened ‘Winston’ apparently as a nod to the anti-hero in George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four novel. They went on to perform a synthpop set that defined the sound of 1980.
We had witnessed OMD perform their current single at Brighton Dome, which was the brilliant ‘Electricity’ and future singles ‘Red Frame/White Light’ and ‘Messages’. These three tracks appeared on their self-titled debut album in February 1980, which saw them break into the UK Top 30 album chart. The album sleeve had a distinctive style as it was literally perforated with many lozenge shaped holes and it sure did stand out in the album racks.
Amazingly also in 1980 (October to be precise) they released their second album ‘Organisation’ which charted as high as No. 6 in the official album charts. This included which ‘in my opinion’ one of the best musical compositions ever written, namely ‘Stanlow’. This was penned about the Stanlow oil refinery located in the North West England. Arguably a strange choice of subject matter, but possibly not when compared to their UK Top 10 single from the same album, namely ‘Enola Gay’.
Third album ‘Architecture & Morality’ arrived a year later in 1981 and peaked at No.3. The band were flying it. What possibly could go wrong? Well, I can remember watching them perform live on ‘The Tube’ on Channel 4 in support of their 4th album ‘Dazzle Ships’. They were now a four piece and here they were on stage waving these semaphore flags and putting blocks into a basket to the sound of ‘ABC123’. Very random indeed at the time, but now considered visionary. ‘The Tube’ did somehow manage to get some truly amazing performances on the show, for example there was the tres-chic ‘Je Suis Passee’ by Hard Corps and outrageous jeans dropping ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ by L7, to name just two.
So OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ was ahead of it’s time and yet their latest album ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ which was released on 1st September 2017, could in fact easily be considered as ‘Dazzle Ships Part 2’ due to some of it’s experimental content. It does however see the boys right back on form as indeed they were with their previous album in 2013 called ‘English Electric’. Last week, I proudly heard the BBC play ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ on ‘The Woman’s Football Show’ when broadcasting an interesting report about the Brighton & Hove Albion’s Ladies Team.
This evening on Bexhill-on-Sea seafront, we were treated to a decent support act in the guise of vintage analogue synth trio Tiny Magnetic Pets from Dublin and Belfast, who are named after the Japanese toy. If you are a fan of all things Moog, Roland, Korg, Mellotron and Vox, then you should check them out.
The band are photogenic vocalist Paula Gilmer, Seán Quinn on synths/vocals plus Eugene Somers on drums and they state that they take their inspiration from Bowie’s Berlin period, 70’s Krautrock and early disco, with a good measure of 80’s retro-futuristic synthpop thrown into the mix. However to me they sound similar to certain elements of Kylie Minogue, Northern Kind, Austra, Goldfrapp, Poeme Electronique and the silky vocals of Debbie Harry. Also on some of their releases, I can hear certain synth passages similar to Tubeway Army/Gary Numan, but twee ones. I enjoyed their set, but wish that they would sound slightly more hard-edged and gritty, but they are lovely people according to my friends who know them.
This evening they performed seven crisp inoffensive synthpop ditties for us fortunate punters in support of their new album ‘Deluxe/Debris’ which features the legendary Wolfgang Flür from Kraftwerk.
Tonight’s Tiny Magnetic Pets setlist reads:
‘All Yesterday’s Tomorrows’ (found on 2017 ‘Deluxe/Debris’ album)
‘Shortwaves’ (found on 2015 ‘Stalingrad’ EP)
‘Not Giving In’ (found on 2016 ‘The NATO Alphabet’ EP)
‘Never Alone’ (found on 2017 ‘Deluxe/Debris’ album)
‘We Shine’ (found on 2015 ‘Stalingrad’ EP)
‘Here Comes The Noise’ (found on 2017 ‘Deluxe/Debris’ album)
‘Semaphore’ (found on 2017 ‘Deluxe/Debris’ album)
You can find their work here: https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com/
By the time OMD took to the stage, the packed crowd were nicely warmed up to say the least. In fact for the record, when they came back for their encore, Andy informed the crowd that the band had been discussing during their short break, that tonight’s audience was the very best on the tour so far! I am not being cynical by thinking that he says this every night, as he (and the other guys) looked and acted in astonishment. Bexhill was date 13 and it was after their London appearance! What a result! Andy said that they would definitely be coming back again! So for their next tour, people of Brighton and Hove, you have been warned, you will have to journey over to Bexhill.
As you might expect the OMD boys were present in order to promote their new ‘Punishment Of Luxury’ album, half of which did get an airing tonight, although sadly there was no Kraftwerk-esque ‘Robot Man’. I was also surprised that none of the dozen tracks on the excellent ‘English Electric’ album were performed this evening – not even the awesome ‘Metroland’. This was a great shame! However, I guess that if you have a career spanning several decades, then not all of everyone’s favourites will be included.
The mid life Bexhill punters were duly treated to a career-spanning set running from 1980 right through to this year. I would have chosen many different tracks myself and I surmise that OMD allured to this situation, as when we arrived we were greeted to a large board offering us an option of three songs in which to vote for our fave, so that the band could perform the winner tonight. The options tonight were ‘Genetic Engineering’ (from their 1983 ‘Dazzle Ships’ album), ‘Pandora’s Box’ (from their 1991 ‘Sugar Tax’ album) and ‘She’s Leaving’ (from their 1981 ‘Architecture & Morality’ album) – ‘Genetic Engineering’ was the order of the day.
At the start of the concert, singer McCluskey was facing motionless with his back to us, but fear not OMD fans, he was soon off on his imitable jerky dance around the stage – something which my teenage son found a little disturbing, but I suspect that he might have been the youngest member of the audience and the sight of an oldie (in his eyes) throwing his Ian Curtis style moves was tantamount to madness. However he did praise Stuart Kershaw’s rhythmic drumming style. Interestingly, Stuart and Andy co-founded Atomic Kitten and wrote quite a bit of their material. I for one however am glad that they are now their back on the OMD dazzle-ship.
I have witnessed OMD live several times down the years, most recently at a sold out Royal Albert Hall, but tonight I was witnessing quite a number of songs that I don’t recall me hearing them being played live at my concerts before and so I kept thinking, “Oh I had forgotten about that one”, so that was rather pleasant. I did understand that the curfew was 11pm but maybe just maybe there was time for a couple more tracks, or could I be a little selfish? I could have done with say their cover of Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’ from their 1991 ‘Sugar Tax’ album or ‘Stanlow’ (from 1980’s ‘Organisation’) or even ”Red Frame/White Light’ (from 1980’s self titled album).
Hmmmmm, thinking about it, I am being a tad selfish. OMD were terrific tonight and they were obviously having a ball, which surpassed their dreams! I suspect that the people of Bexhill will be raving about tonight’s concert for many a year! So, right then lads, when are you coming back?
Here’s tonight’s OMD setlist:
(intro tape) ‘Art Eats Art’/’La Mitrailleuse’ (found on 2017 ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ album)
‘Ghost Star’ (found on 2017 ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ album)
‘Isotype’ (found on 2017 ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ album)
‘Messages’ (found on 1980 ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ album)
‘Tesla Girls’ (found on 1984 ‘Junk Culture’ album)
‘History Of Modern (Part I)’ (found on 2010 ‘History Of Modern’ album)
‘One More Time’ (found on 2017 ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ album)
‘Genetic Engineering’ (found on 1983 ‘Dazzle Ships’ album)
‘(Forever) Live And Die’ (from 1986 ‘The Pacific Age’ album)
‘Souvenir’ (found on 1981 ‘Architecture & Morality’ album)
‘Joan Of Arc’ (found on 1981 ‘Architecture & Morality’ album)
‘Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans)’ (found on 1981 ‘Architecture & Morality’ album)
(tape) ‘Time Zones’ (originally found on 1983 ‘Dazzle Ships’ album)
‘Of All The Things We’ve Made’ (found on 1983 ‘Dazzle Ships’ album)
‘What Have We Done’ (found on 2017 ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ album)
‘So In Love’ (found on 1985 ‘Crush’ album)
‘Locomotion’ (found on 1984 ‘Junk Culture’ album)
‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ (found on 2017 ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ album)
‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’ (found on 1991 ‘Sugar Tax’ album)
‘Enola Gay’ (found on 1980 ‘Organisation’ album)
‘Walking On The Milky Way’ (found on 1996 ‘Universal’ album)
‘If You Leave’ (found on 1986 ‘Pretty In Pink’ film soundtrack album)
‘Electricity’ (found on 1980 ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ album)
For more info on OMD visit here: http://www.omd.uk.com/
If you enjoy synth music like OMD, then the chances are that you will also enjoy the bands listed below. Simply click on each of the names and they will take you to our concert reviews on those bands:
Fröst, The Human League, Blancmange, The KVB, Digitalis, Battery Operated Orchestra, Halo Maud, Sextile, Gary Numan, Orbital, Pinkshinyultrablast, B-Movie, Covenant, AK/DK, Blue Hawaii, The Fin., Heaven 17, Austra, Vile Electrodes.