You know those gigs on Eighties revival tours, where an artist who had one or two vaguely remembered hits over thirty years ago comes out (maybe as part of a package) looking about three stone heavier, a semitone or more flatter, and possibly a bit balder, then trots them out, along with a fair bit of filler?
This is not one of those gigs.
This is OMD’s fortieth anniversary, and this is just one of a number of birthday parties they’re playing to celebrate. So here we are, on a Wednesday evening in Gateshead. And because it’s the Sage, the first thing to mention is that the setting is fabulous; the Sage is always a great venue; second, the place always sounds fantastic, and tonight is no exception. Everything sounds crisp and beautifully balanced, which again is good because it does justice to the band.
So, put it all together. When you have a venue that makes things nicer, a crowd who are definitely up for some fun, and a band with a back catalogue that’s the envy of many, and who look like they’re on a mission from the off, what could possbly go wrong? Tonight: nothing. Nothing at all.
The thing that’s most striking is that this evening isn’t just a trawl through that older part of their prodigious back catalogue. They mix things up, with newer songs like the latest single Don’t Go, Isotype, and History of Modern in amonsgt the ones most of a certain age will remember from the 80s, and it’s seamless. What’s notable about OMD is that their recent output is still a match for what some would call their heyday. In fact, with their portfolio, they can even afford to leave some fabulous songs off the list tonight, like Secret, Sister Marie Says, the very Kraftwerk-y Metroland(1) or even Telegraph .
From the outset it’s pretty clear that the band in general are having fun, and McCluskey in particular is very much enjoying himself, throwing himself around the stage, windmilling (and more) in his customary way when he’s not playing bass. He bounces off the audience, and the audience love it too, especially when he drops a clanger later on (during Pandora’s Box, I think), and forgets a lyric. But he brushes it off, laughing, and the band play on, clearly all having a blast.
What is also nice is having live drums, which gives things slightly more of a kick when needed, like in Sailing on the Seven Seas, or Maid of Orleans, which still both sound fabulous.
Togther with the great sound, you also have to mention the lighting and visuals. They’re not flashy, by any means, but they are nicely atmospheric, working well with a mix of lights and projection video, split across multiple small screens. Its tastefully done and complements the music beautifully.
The bangers keep coming, and they finally finish with a storming Enola Gay, before coming back for an encore (which wasn’t just lip service, the audience really did want more). The final song is of course the song that began it all, Electricity, and it still sounds as fresh and vital as it did all those years ago. They’re still a band writing great songs, playing great sets, and having plenty of fun doing it. It was a fantastic evening’s entertainment.
Some footage from the gig
- -Souvenir Tour Intro-
- Tesla Girls
- History of Modern (Part 1)
- (Forever) Live and Die
- Joan of Arc
- Maid of Orleans
- -Time Zones-
- Don’t Go
- So in Love
- The Punishment of Luxury
- Sailing on the Seven Seas
- Enola Gay
- If You Leave
- Pandora’s Box
(1) It’s uncanny how much it sounds like Neon Lights