Look at what we’ve done…
It’s not unusual for fans of a particular band to be asked why they continue to go and see said band night after night on tour, despite the fact the band play the same songs and quite often make the same jokes and same remarks to the audience.
As someone who is currently following OMD around the country – and in fact I cannot think of anything I’d rather be doing – I generally have two responses to this. The first is that there are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who go and see the same men kick a football up down a field every week, which is a decision I completely respect even whilst questioning why this is more culturally acceptable than going to see the same band over and over.
The second response is that, yes, a band might play the same set, but the atmosphere at each venue, the way the gig affects different audiences and the way the band performs can vary wildly from night to night.
I know I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but every gig is different – a theory that is evidenced best by gigs like the one we were treated to on Saturday in London. From the outset it was clear OMD were going to be on top form and that the audience were going to be up for anything; people were screaming and cheering before anyone had even come on stage, and continued to scream and cheer as the band launched into their opening song, the stunning ‘Sealand’. What followed was the rest of Architecture & Morality (albeit in a different order from the original track listing), and then what was essentially a truncated version of the band’s festival set, presumably to keep the more casual fans happy and dancing, as well as the hardened OMD gig-goers.
They were obviously doing something right with regards to the song choices though; nothing seemed to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm all night. Not ‘Georgia’ (previously described by The Quietus as an ‘eschatological bomb age hymn’), not ‘History of Modern’ (a song about the end of the world), not ‘Pandora’s Box’ (written about the rather tragic life of a 1920s film star), not ‘The New Stone Age’ (a song about regret, and also quite possibly the end of the world). Apparently no amount of songs about existential crises and tragic historical figures could hold back 4000 people on a Saturday night in Hammersmith.
There was a definite change in mood from one part of the set to the other, however, with the Architecture & Morality tracks generally being greeted with a warm and enthusiastic reverence, almost as if there was something sacred about them. When singer Andy McCluskey raised his arms at the beginning of ‘Joan of Arc’ the crowd immediately did the same. I can only imagine how like idol worship it might have looked like to an impartial observer, with everyone gazing up at him adoringly, thousands of eyes fixed on his whether he was frantically flailing about or standing still.
The hits and the more upbeat tracks which followed elicited a more rambunctious reaction from the audience, helped along by Andy’s joyful shouts of ‘We are relentless!’ and ‘Don’t slow down!’ in between virtually every track.
In fairness, the band really were on top form. Last night really was without doubt one of the best OMD gigs I’ve seen, in part due to the onstage antics that you don’t necessarily get all the time.
Paul Humphreys having a significant amount of lingerie chucked at him during ‘(Forever) Live and Die’ was one of the most notable moments of the night, some of which he proceeded to pick up and saunter around the stage with. Andy had some socks thrown at him during the next song, which he didn’t look very happy about, but which greatly amused everyone else.
‘Locomotion’ surprisingly provided another highlight, in the form of Andy grinning the widest grin he could muster when the entire front row started miming the steel drum part. Martin ‘Sax Machine’ Cooper – ever the consummate professional – graciously accepted the cheers aimed in his direction after his ‘So In Love’ saxophone solo (the highlight of that particular song, in my opinion), and Stuart Kershaw threw everything he had at any number of psychically demanding drum parts, powering through ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ in particular like something possessed.
But the undoubted highlight of the gig – and indeed every gig when they play this track – was the band’s ‘going home’ song, ‘The Romance of the Telescope’. In Andy’s own words, ‘it’s not fast but it’s beautiful’, and judging by the roar that hit them when they’d finished, the crowd agreed.
Architecture and Morality
New Stone Age
Joan of Arc
Maid of Orleans
The Beginning and the End
History of Modern
(Forever) Live and Die
So In Love
Sailing on the Seven Seas
If You Leave
The Romance of the Telescope
This review originally appeared on Messages.