Concert Review

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – O2 Apollo Manchester 1/3/24

Wirral electro stars kick off Bauhaus Staircase UK Tour in Manchester

OMD kicked off their latest UK tour with a sold out show at Manchester’s O2 Apollo, one of two nights at the venue. With a set showcasing 7 of the 12 tracks from Bauhaus Staircase, an album well received by critics and fans alike, they showed just how good a live band they can be. Although often thought of as a electronic duo, this was a proper “rock music” experience. With the more static members of the band rooted to their disco cube platforms, it is up to the spritely Andy McCluskey, belying his 64 trips around the sun, to cover the expansive Apollo stage as the focal point, both with and without his trusty bass.

Now in their 46th year, with 14 albums tucked into their belts, the appetite for performing live is still plain to see, with frequent grins between McCluskey and long time foil, Paul Humphreys, throughout the 22 song set. This is a long way from their first gig, opening for Manc legends Joy Division at the legendary Eric’s Club in Liverpool in 1978. Despite label boss Tony Wilson not liking it, Factory Records picked up and released “Electricity” shortly afterwards, leading to a 7 album deal with DinDisc, although only delivering 3 albums before the label was swallowed up by Virgin. It is perhaps no surprise that a JD track featured in the pre-show music in the lead up to the show. It has often been claimed that OMD are the Liverpool band most popular with Mancunians!

Tonight we are treated to a veritable feast of Top 40 singles and album tracks, as the years are rolled back and the mostly over 50 something crowd enthusiastically greet each song. This is my first OMD gig since the big schism of 1989, when McCluskey and Humphreys parted ways. Despite the years, they have always been one of those bands whose back catalogue I’ve returned to many times over the decades.

Stand out track from Bauhaus Staircase, Anthropocene kicks proceedings off with it’s disco intro and spoken word narrative, shades of Public Service Broadcasting and Visage, before 1980 comes calling again with the distinctive single finger synth prodding of Messages. The Hi NRG dancefloor filler Tesla Girls follows, further confirming the cerebral side of the bands output, as back in 1984 pretty much nobody had heard of the pre-Musk electrical engineer. It’s the lyrical content that have always set OMD apart from their peers and those who came later. Everyday is a school day could easily be their motto, as a new OMD song was often a history or science lecture you could dance to: Electricity, Enola Gay, Joan Of Arc, Genetic Engineering and more recently Bauhaus Staircase. This is far removed from the puerile pop that many of their proteges churned out in the 80s and 90s. You could absorb knowledge by osmosis just by being close to an OMD album. Long gone are the three quarter length army greatcoats and floppy fringes so loved by us fans back in the day. We can barely fasten one button and our hair departed for pastures new, but inwardly we still identify as that young buck or doe around town. Just for tonight we can forget about the march of time and relive our youth, safe in the knowledge that we were lucky enough to live through the best times for music there has ever been or ever likely to be.

There’s a change up with Paul taking over vocal duties on a couple of tunes and then we’re treated to the four of them coming down to stage level, for an almost theatrically minimalist middle set culled from the new album, the spotlight picking out McCluskey during Veruschka and Healing, before returning to the up-tempo Don’t Go and McCluskey gets his steps in again!

As the set progresses I’m beginning to envy those sat in the balcony, my feet ache but just then the set takes it up another gear and we slide into the encore via Dreaming, Locomotion, Sailing On The Seven Seas (Cod Liver Oil remix!) and Enola Gay and all pain is temporarily ignored.

They return for a 3 song encore starting with Look At You Know, then Pandora’s Box before Electricity gets everyone up dancing for one last time.

About The Author

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Andi Callen (Contributing Editor)

Original punk. Done everything there is to do in music, except run a record label! Addicted to noise and taking photographs of live music. Based on NW England, I've previously contributed to Louder Than War, MancAndi, The Punk Site, and Backseat Mafia, where I was Punk/Post Punk & Live Editor. Part of the original review team when Rocksound Magazine first started.
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