Live Review: OMD at Gateshead Sage – 13th May 2013

By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

All photos by TGTF Head Photographer Martin Sharman; see the full gallery of high-res photos from this gig here.

As the American editor of a UK/US music Web site, I hope this will become a more common occurrence in the very near future. But in general, it is a very rare treat for me to see a seminal ’80s band that I loved as a child in a venue as beautiful as the Gateshead Sage. When I took the train in from Edinburgh, I spied from out the carriage window a massive, hulking silver piece of architecture that I wouldn’t have been able to miss. Shortly after I’d arrived, I met up with Martin at the pub and he explained, “ah yes. That would be the Sage”.

Newcastle – and Gateshead for that matter – surprised me on many levels; maybe it was the fact that I arrived on a clear, sunny day and the skyline was breathtaking, but compared to the usual city suspects I visit in my travels (London, Manchester, Liverpool), the city feels very much like a younger, cleaner, smarter brother to all of those. The Sage, in all its grandeur as a posher place to see orchestras and rock bands alike, fits neatly into this description. It’s even better when you’re shown to your seat by a real live Geordie usher. Ah, North East accents, they’re adorable! (Somewhat related tangent: when I watched the Stoke vs. Sunderland match in a Glaswegian bar the previous Tuesday and was absolutely enthralled by O’Shea’s equalising goal for Sunderland in the second half, I got this Tweet from David Brewis of Field Music, and Martin’s attempt at recreating the sound of a Sunderland accent saying this made me chuckle.)

The ’80s band in question was, of course, OMD. Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys’ career in the UK hasn’t followed the same trajectory as in America, and this distinction was made starkly clear during this show in Gateshead. I think I can safely say among Americans that the most instantly recognisable song of theirs – and certainly the most played of theirs on MOR ’80s radio stations these days – all happened as the result of one ‘If You Leave’ being included as part of the soundtrack to Howard Hughes’ teenage angst film Pretty in Pink, starring then Hollywood teen heartthrobs Molly Ringwald and (one of my personal favourites, swoon) Andrew McCarthy. McCluskey himself acknowledged that this inclusion wasn’t very rock ‘n’ roll: “a long time ago we sold our souls to the devil…Well, to Paramount Pictures, and it made our drummer very rich!” They were one of the first then-current bands of the era whose British English spelling of their name sent me into rapture: “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark”. So sophisticated!

In America, OMD owes this song a lot to their mainstream popularity; when we’d seen them 2 years ago at 9:30 Club, saying that the audience was entirely in rapture during its playing would have been an understatement. Interestingly, this is not the same reception the song received in Gateshead. I’ve never seen such a country-specific divide at a show before. I’m also wondering if the multimedia presentation with swiveling panels high above the stage will make it to America this summer, as I’m meant to see them again in July; Ringwald’s photogenic face projected on these panels made for a compelling visual, though I’m positive it would go over like gangbusters here in DC and have a far better reaction. For sheer crowd reaction, I’d say Britain’s ‘If You Leave’ is probably ‘Enola Gay’, another very worthy contender in the OMD oeuvre.

OMD Gateshead live 1

But let me start at the beginning. As readers know, OMD released their latest album ‘English Electric’ in April (my review here), and you’d be right in assuming the current set list takes full advantage of the new release; the show began with the confounding ‘Please Be Seated’ album intro, followed by the competent but not hugely anthemic ‘Metroland’. While it has its moments, I don’t find it a particularly strong record, so I was disappointed that the set didn’t include more from 2010’s ‘History of Modern’. That said, the evening’s set was a nice selection of back catalogue gems (‘Messages’, ‘Tesla Girls’, ‘The Pacific Age’ with Humphreys on lead vocal duties, ‘Maid of Orleans’) interspersed with the high tech whimsy of ‘English Electric’ (‘Kissing the Machine’, the absolutely dotty ‘Atomic Ranch’, the sure to be future classic ‘Dresden’). All the while, McCluskey’s style of inexhaustible somewhat dad-dancing style of interpretative dance was on display, to the well-dressed punters’ glee. (Yes: if you’re seeing in a show at the Sage and it’s a well-known band you’re seeing, expect to pay upwards of £30 per ticket.) The end of the night was capped off by a brilliant rendition of the first song the pair wrote as boys in the Wirral; ‘Electricity’ never fails to wow.

The best thing about the night? Martin had never seen OMD live before and afterwards, he revealed, “I quite enjoyed that!” Result! I was asked many times on this trip to Britain what spurred me on to become a music writer in the first place. Two reasons really: one, I wanted more British bands to be aware of the DC market and to stop skipping us in favour of Philadelphia (this is happening less, and I think this is because of my hard work), and two, to encourage folks to listen and try out music they might otherwise venture into themselves. Martin’s music taste is impeccable (of course it is, he writes for us ::grin::), so the fact that I turned him on to a band I really like, that is just icing on the cake.

OMD Gateshead live 2

After the cut: the set list.

OMD Set List:
Please Remain Seated
Metroland
Messages
Tesla Girls
Dresden
History of Modern (Part 1)
(Forever) Live and Die
The Pacific Age
If You Leave
Night Cafe
Souvenir
Joan of Arc
Maid of Orleans
Our System
Talking Loud and Clear
Atomic Ranch
Kissing the Machine
So in Love
Sister Marie Says
Locomotion
Sailing on the Seven Seas
Enola Gay
//
Walking on the Milky Way
Electricity

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One Response

2:05 pm
30th May 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Live Review: OMD @OfficialOMD at Gateshead Sage @sage_gateshead – 13th May 2013: http://t.co/upmZPjAbc3

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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