Swinging his arms round in circles like an orangutang cricketeer bowling as he skips across the giant stage, OMD’s Andy McCluskey has enough vim and vigour for men half his age. Tonight’s show, which has filled the man with all this boundless energy, is part of the group’s Souvenir tour, named in honour of the hit single from the 1981 Architecture & Morality album, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Before they went slightly off the rails with the critically mauled but later reappraised Dazzle Ships album and reinvented themselves as chart bothering pop rockers, the band had been initially famed for their austere electronica and brutalist album art. Tonight was meant as a tribute to that era of the band’s development.
Their choice of support comes from fellow about-turners Scritti Politti. Once signed to cult label Rough Trade and making very worthy post punk indie, Green Gartside and companions made a complete switch early in their career towards a bastardised postmodern take on African-American soul and Jamaican dub that lent heavily on studio experimentation and pushed them into mainstream arenas. After minor tech issues with headphones, and mucking up the intro to a few tracks, the group performed a selection of hits taken predominantly from the Cupid & Psyche 85 album.
Surprisingly Gartside’s voice is as angelic as ever. Listening to the group perform, they manage the impossible and sound both hyper modern yet calcified in the near past, so much so that you can draw a direct lineage between Scritti Politti’s wistful melodies and percussive maximalism and contemporary artists like Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferarro who plunder the soundscapes of the ’80s. Gartside isn’t stuck in the past though. He performs a fascinating tribute to the murdered rapper Trentavious White AKA Bankroll Fresh, showcasing how in tune he’s kept with the sounds he loved. Of course the highlight of their set was a mesmeric take on Wood Beez that highlighted that the group deserve more than support slots; they should be headlining venues like this once more.
In honour of Peter Saville’s iconic artwork for the Architecture & Morality album, as the title track from the record plays over the PA, a succession of suitably sombre studies of buildings flood the screens behind OMD as they quietly shuffle on stage. First track Sealand was meant as a tribute both to the Neu! track Seeland and the North Sea principality. Replete with droning synths and emotionally distant lyrics, you get the impression that tonight will likely to be a dark and moody affair.
They progress through tracks like She’s Leaving and The New Stone Age, and everything is very grey. Perhaps sensing that the audience might get a little fed up with that, the group play eight tracks from the album then decide to run through a brief greatest hits set. When Mr Humphreys, longtime keyboardist Paul, accidentally tests the “NO!” vocal sample from Tesla Girls, McCluskey jokingly teases him for ruining the surprise of the next song. The crowd aren’t bothered, they cheer and dance regardless.
Compelling the audience to dance on History Of Modern (Part 1), McCluskey still finds great pleasure in performing the band’s catalogue, hence the rubber limbed enthusiasm, but he knows enough to take a step back and graciously let Humphreys step to the front the Sparks-esque Forever (Live And Die). They finish big with the two most familiar songs of their career, Sailing On The Seven Seas (cheekily referred to as ‘our newest hit single’ albeit from 1991) and of course Enola Gay. The Personal Jesus-esque drums of the former elicit a tremendous cheer, but it’s the latter that rouses the ‘kids’, as Gartside had referred to the increasingly mature crowd, to dance in the aisles. They encore with a sturdy, enthusiastic version of early single Electricity and finally the last track from Architecture & Morality, The Romance Of The Telescope. For a loving crowd, the band belie their name by shining a decadent light on the know-it-all glories of youth.