OMD at ACL Live at the Moody Theater 5.12.2022
by Brent Wolf
English electronic band OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) energized a crowd of varying ages at ACL Live at the Moody Theater this week. The band is on the Souvenir tour celebrating their 40th anniversary with their greatest hits.
Standing in front of the stage well before the opening act Sarah Carter (only 18 and traveled from Waco for the show with her parents) said OMD is her favorite band from middle school. Amazing, considering her age. She shared that her parents played their music when she was growing up and that “I like bands that are more unique, that have more interesting lyrics.”
Opening for what many call the pioneers of electronic dance was In the Valley Below. Jeffrey Jacob Mendel (vocals, guitar) and Angela Gail Mattson (vocals, keyboard) are a couple that shared during their set that they fell in love in Austin and thanked a friend for letting them crash on their floor. It inspired their new song “Lie with Me.” They ended their set with “Peaches” , a song from 2013 that hit number 18 on Billboard Alternative Song charts that year.
OMD’s show kicked off with a multimedia 4-screen video playing the unconventional and cool “Atomic Ranch”, has male and female robotic voice over with lyrics “I want a house…and a car… and a perfect life.” A unique way to start the show with those interesting lyrics.
Andy McCluskey (vocals, bass guitar) and Paul Humphreys (keyboards, vocals) formed OMD in 1978 and they originally met in primary school in England. Humphreys departed the band in the late 80’s and McCluskey and Humphreys reunited in 2006.
McCluskey had the boundless energy of a primary school kid throughout the night, dancing all over the stage and authentically embracing the crowd.
Next up was “Stanlow” – an ambient, reflective sound plus city night scenes on the big screens behind them. “Isotype” kicked things up a beat with McCluskey dancing and encouraging the crowd, embracing the adulation of fans. I saw several fans do a happy jump in place at the beginning of almost every song, including “Messages”, an ethereal song with great vocals.
McCluskey had the audience clapping and dancing along to one of OMD’s biggest club hits, “Tesla Girls” (featured in the John Hughes movie Weird Science from 1985) and those unique lyrics “now and then they’ll watch TV, now and then they’ll speak to me.”
“History of Modern Part 1” (2019) kept the crowd bopping with its classic grooving synths and upbeat and positive feel. McCluskey at one point said “If you were dancing in ‘76, then raise your hand, and if you weren’t…then dance like it’s ‘76!”
“(Forever) Live & Die”, “Souvenir,” and “Joan of Arc” followed, along with”Time Zones”, the moody “Statues”, and “Almost” gave fans time to chill and catch their breath from their cardio workout.
“Don’t Go” had the crowd singing along with memories of intense emotions and feelings most of us have felt a few times in past relationships.
“Dreaming” had me thinking of middle school dances and snowball skates at my hometown roller skating rink. “I was only dreaming, dreaming, I was only trying to catch your eye.”
A rousing rendition of “Enola Gay” had the house up and dancing again. Videos playing on the screen behind the band dressed in all black, reminding with a mushroom cloud, that the song is an anti-war song. It’s meant to address the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the aircraft Enola Gay in 1945, toward the end of World War II.
After the set, the crowd was chanting “OMD” for several minutes in hopes of encore. You knew the band knew fans wanted to hear mainstay “If You Leave” and it was the first song of the encore. Videos showed Molly Ringwald in scenes from the iconic Pretty in Pink. Martin Cooper (keyboards, saxophone) soared with the beautiful saxophone solo. Stuart Kershaw (drums, piano), McCluskey and Humphreys were all in sync with McCluskey standing and delivering the raw and emotional vocals that most everyone recognizes and loves. “If you leave, don’t look back!”
“Secret” followed. The song that started it all, “Electricity”, the 1979 debut single played with passion and sounded as powerful live as the recorded version, closed out the night.
Seeing OMD live made me realize just how underrated they are and appreciative of the energy they brought to their live performance. I’m grateful to have been a teenager in the 80’s, and having OMD and the rest of the music of the decade as part of my coming-of-age years. It’s heartwarming to learn that teenagers today are having a similar experience with the same music.
Check out all of our photos from the show on Austin 101.
History of Modern, Part 1
(Forever) Live and Die
Joan of Arc
So in Love
The Punishment of Luxury
Sailing on the Seven Seas
If You Leave