The BandOrchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark is a band comprised of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys. As a pair, they look like they could have starred in 1980's Merchant-Ivory films or 'Chariots Of Fire'.
In reality, they are actually associated with one very iconic John Hughes film. I had the great fortune to see their songs performed live recently. It's difficult to focus on any one aspect of their journey. OMD has a legacy of mastering pure electro-pop, and they remain true to their sound. So let's begin with where they are TODAY. They released an album in 2013 called 'English Electric'.
|OMD's English Electric album|
It's not about over-performing for the sake of personal gain, and it's not about selfish absorption of energy from their loving audience. It's about the output of energy (at just the right level) to make each song function at its most optimal, propelled by the current that runs from the band to the audience and back again. Electricity in its purest form, still. And they clearly loved that energy as much as we, the audience, did.
Electricity (and Solar Energy)What has always attracted me to their songs and lyrics has been a sense of sweetness and intelligence. And their passion for science is always evident, as in one of my favorite conclusions to any song –– in 'Electricity':
The alternative is only one
The final source of energy
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark are essentially forward thinking futurists like their hero Nikola Tesla. Which brings me to 'Tesla Girls', a song they released in 1984.
Nikola Tesla (and Tesla Girls)'No! No! No!' 'Tesla Girls' is not just a means to pay homage to their hero, famed electrical engineer and futurist Nikola Tesla, a man greatly responsible for the use of electricity as we've known it; the song gives pause to appreciate smart girls.
Tesla girls, Tesla girls
Testing out theories
Electric chairs and dynamos
Dressed to kill, they're killing me
But Heaven knows their recipe
(No No No)
You wouldn't believe me if I said
The things I've seen went over my head
I've been patient Heaven knows
I've learnt the rules and how it goes
I can't sit still or settle down
And when I walk I don't touch the ground
See those girls they're heaven blessed
I guess it's so they know best
Tesla girls, Tesla girls
Writing in their diaries
Now and then they'll watch TV
Now and then they'll speak to me
But Heaven knows their recipe
The ShowA lifetime of loving Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark did not prepare me for how much I would enjoy their recent live performance at San Francisco's Regency Ballroom on April 12, 2013. I was looking forward to the show and didn't want to set my expectations too high. And then the actual experience exceeded all of my expectations. Here's a photo of me at the end of the show (lingering after the majority of people had filed out) feeling moved by the glory of synth-pop I'd just witnessed.
This is how it went: the crowd that gathered at the Regency Ballroom kept growing until the place was filled to capacity. It was a packed house, and I'd never seen the popular venue as crowded. Everyone was smiling, happy to be there. People were genuinely being nice to one another. Multiple strangers complimented me on my jacket, and my iPhone cover––fittingly, an 80's 'cassette tape' one (pictured below.) People in attendance were being friendly for no apparent reason.
|My cassette phone cover|
If You LeaveI also knew the band has a funny love-hate relationship with arguably their biggest hit: 'If You Leave'. Before breaking out into his fantastic 80's style dancing when the music begins, Andy McCluskey amusingly said at another recent show: 'We don't normally play this song but we will for you tonight. It's a song that ruined our careers. We were doing great as an alternative band 'til we wrote this... [music begins] It's still fucking great, mind you!' See that great performance below.
Prom NightAs O.M.D. themselves have said, despite (and in large part, because of) everything it represents... "It's still a fucking great song." And that is not a subjective sentiment. It IS a f%#!ing great song. Everyone who breathes will agree in their hearts and minds, even if they wouldn't declare it out loud. Just as it brought odd couple Andie and Blaine together for a kiss, closing out an incredibly poignant and romantic movie, 'If You Leave' is a song that anyone belonging to any clique, group, subculture, or what have you, can agree upon. Because it's a song that fully accomplishes what it sets out to do. It's romantic. When they played it for us, their captive audience, I suddenly realized I'd never before heard as beloved a pop song as that one performed live. It was such an amazing feeling to be in the midst of a roomful of people in a state of euphoria over that song, one that everyone associates to either the memorable romance of 'Pretty In Pink', a prom night fantasy or a reality of their own.
Enola GayThe show was incredible, packed with all their greatest songs and a few new tunes. Some of my favorites aside from the aforementioned 'Electricity', which closed out the encore as the final song of the night: "Secret', 'Souvenir', 'Enola Gay', Walking On the Milky Way', 'So In Love', 'Joan Of Arc', 'Locomotion', 'Messages'. They played them all. Here's a quick video of 'Enola Gay' from the night that gives some idea of how the show looked and felt.
Tesla GirlsAnd they also played 'Tesla Girls' that night –– for the first time in a long while, as Andy explained. Lucky us! I'm so glad they did.