Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark lights up The Regency Ballroom with their 80s nostalgia while keeping it modern.
By Stormy Phoenix
March 27th was a historic Tuesday night. Why? For starters, it marked the return of the beloved comedy sitcom Roseanne that originally aired 30 years ago. On the other hand, 40 years ago British electronic band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) was formed by founders Andy McCluskey (vocals and bass) and Paul Humphreys (keyboard and vocals). The band celebrated their momentous 40th anniversary at San Francisco’s own Regency Ballroom. A year ago, they were interviewed by KALX DJ Rubberband Girl, and now we’re fortunate to have OMD back in the KALX spotlight.
As fans lined up outside wearing their OMD shirts waiting to be let in the venue, a loyal listener who won tickets for the show told me, “This was [his] second show seeing OMD. His first was 20 years ago.” Another was a groupie who follows OMD every show they tour. It’s amazing to see true fans never outgrow their taste in music.
An hour passed and the doors finally opened. OMD stepped on stage as the stars they are and opened with “Ghost Star” from their latest album, The Punishment of Luxury. McCluskey even excited the audience by saying, “You know when I play bass, it’s an old song.” He encouraged the crowd to dance and jump to “Tesla Girls” off their 1984 Junk Culture album. Even while singing, McCluskey did his own new wave club dance. The man is fifty-nine years old and still knows how to move across the stage! He even offered some life advice to everyone: “Dance like nobody’s watching.”
I have to say the light show was impeccable, especially in tandem with McCluskey dancing and the 80s neon light scheme, which took it back to when OMD was at their prime. I also enjoyed that after every song they sang, they thanked the audience to show their appreciation. At one point, McCluskey took a break from singing and switched on keyboards to let Humphreys sing “(Forever) Live and Die” from their 1986 album The Pacific Age. The partnership between Humphreys and McCluskey is like watching Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan and Martin L. Gore as they both have that contrast-dynamic chemistry.
McCluskey went back on the mic when he sang the band’s ultimate hit song “If You Leave” featured in the cult classic 80s film Pretty Pink. Right before he sang, McCluskey mentioned that “[He] got a phone call from John [Hughes] and asked if he would like to meet Molly [Ringwald].” The audience went wild for the song, especially when Martin Cooper played the saxophone.. Even McCluskey noticed, as he remarked sarcastically, “Wow, they really know this song. You must’ve heard it from somewhere?” A fan right beside me name Lissette said, “I’ve always wanted to watch OMD live ever since I heard their song play in Pretty in Pink. This is my first concert seeing them!” OMD definitely brought back an 80s community together that night.
OMD played back and forth with their old and new music. Just before the encore, they played their anti-war song “Enola Gay” off 1980’s Organisation. Fans applauded and cheered for OMD to return on stage because they weren’t ready to leave. McCluskey walked up to the mic jokingly asked, “You want another three more hours?” Instead, they played three more songs — “Dreaming,” “Secret,” and “Electricity” — the latter being a faster tempo song they wrote when they were seventeen. Finally, OMD said their goodbyes and promised they would be back playing in the Bay Area in the near future. Currently, OMD is writing a biography book and are encouraging fans to share their OMD experience through their website so they can add to their upcoming book.
Jisselle Fernandez aka Stormy Phoenix has been a KALX volunteer since 2015 and is studying in broadcasting. When she’s not volunteering, working, or going to school, she loves to attend concerts!