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Live Review: OMD with Diamond Rings at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 13th July 2013

 
By on Wednesday, 17th July 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Once I saw OMD wow fans at the posh settings of the Gateshead Sage in May, there was no question that I wanted to see them again when they came round to DC 2 months later. Forget that Savages were playing a sold-out show on the other side of town; the 9:30 Club was the place to be Saturday night. If it wasn’t entirely sold out, it was pretty damn close: if you turned around and looked back from our spot down the front, all you saw were bodies and more bodies crammed in on the floor and on the balcony.

Whether or not frontman Andy McCluskey recalled I was based in DC after answering our Quickfire Questions last week, it didn’t matter. Both him and partner in arms Paul Humphreys were bowled over by the reception, with McCluskey saying that there were definitely more punters present than in 2011. He further requested of us, “next time bring a friend…and maybe in 5 years’ time we’ll play the arena!” (meaning the Verizon Center, where Coldplay and Foo Fighters regularly sell out). It was a terribly optimistic statement for a band that many still view as a ‘80s new wave nostalgia act, but he wouldn’t have said it if he hadn’t been impressed by Washington.

Diamond Rings Washington live

The support band for this entire North American summer tour was Toronto’s Diamond Rings, aka Jon O’Regan, who started out in two entirely different bands before striking out on his own as an electronic artist. Like I’d brought Martin to the Gateshead show, in Washington I took Cheryl to this one, as she didn’t know much about OMD and I knew she would enjoy it. She had a very astute observation about the Diamond Rings’ style, suggesting that teenagers who enjoyed the Neighbourhood would also like this style of dance music. ::editor facepalm::

That would be an easy excellent explanation on why I didn’t like it – the music just wasn’t for me – but I knew it was more than that. It kind of hit me like a ton of bricks that the me of 3 years ago would have loved the strobe lighting and flashing coloured lights accompanied by funky electronic beats. That me wouldn’t have been bothered by O’Regan’s Max Headroom-type haircut. That me probably would have let lyrics like “I wanna be your A to Z!” slide, choosing to instead focus on the rhythms instead. But not tonight. Make no mistake, O’Regan definitely has talent, with a voice that can range from the dark Dave Gahan-esque vocals of ‘Waiting on My Angel’ to the nursery rhyme style of set closer ‘Day and Night’ that suits his youngest listeners. And I suppose until La Roux returns with a new album, Diamond Rings will just have to do.

OMD Washington 2013 1

In my review of OMD’s Sage show, I alluded to a potential UK vs. US disconnect in the way punters were likely to react to their set list. As you probably imagine, I don’t get the opportunity to see shows by the same band in two different countries all that often. By and large my assumptions were correct: while the set list had only minor differences, McCluskey smartly changed his stage patter ever so slightly to accommodate a stateside audience. Instead of referring to ‘If You Leave’ as the song where the band had sold their souls to the devil (Hollywood), the short preface of “this is a song from a film” was a sufficient signal to their American fans that “OMG! They’re playing my favorite song!” (I didn’t actually hear this uttered but there were two very excited, very drunk middle-aged women next to me that I thought might succumb to heart attacks when the Pretty in Pink theme song was queued up.) It must give McCluskey and Humphreys such a kick that one song can have such different reactions in two different countries. Instead of 1996’s ‘Walking on the Milky Way’, whose associated album ‘Universal’ did nothing in America, OMD’s encore began with the Humphreys-led ‘Secret’, to which McCluskey quipped, “we didn’t play this the last time, it’s lucky we got out of here alive”. Ha! Oh really?

OMD Washington 2013 2

Perhaps also it is the setting of the 9:30 Club that affected punter behavior, encouraging all out dancing and fist pumping. Earlier during Diamond Rings’ set, the first two rows of fans were wearing sunglasses as if in deference to the baby-faced Canadian artist who was also wearing them. Multiple times that evening, the aforementioned drunk ladies were shaking their tushes and didn’t care where they were shaking them, which generally didn’t happen the Sage, as the audience was largely encumbered by the auditorium style seating. I think also that a good barometer of just how good the audience was could be determined by the fact that the Americans were more receptive and accepting of the new material from this year’s ‘English Electric’ album, with McCluskey’s absolutely mad explanation of what ‘Kissing the Machine’ was about making everyone laugh and both ‘Metroland’ and ‘Dresden’ were met with mental dance reactions. These same reactions pretty much rivalled the kind of reaction you’d expect from ‘Tesla Girls’ and permanent last song of the night ‘Electricity’.

Two different shows, two different countries. Yet one result: appreciative, happy fans. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

 

Quickfire Questions #48: Andy McCluskey of OMD

 
By on Thursday, 11th July 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Something very exciting in the TGTF Quickfire Questions today. Electronic pioneers OMD start a new North American tour this very night in Toronto, and the DC contingent of TGTF are pretty stoked about them coming to Washington on Saturday night. (Especially me, as I got to see them with Martin on my holiday at Gateshead Sage in May.) Ahead of that, frontman and certainly one of my personal music heroes Andy McCluskey was kind enough to answer our Quickfire Questions and give us insight into the first single he ever bought, the euphoria that led to abject heartbreak in his first relationship and what his iPod reveals about him. (He even gave us a smiley face. Come on. Andy McCluskey of OMD gave TGTF a smiley face!) Read on…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
The theme tune to the TV show Andy Pandy from the watch with mother lunchtime series in teh UK when I was 3 years old.

What was your favourite song as a child?
Three Wheels on my Wagon by the New Christy Minstrels.

What song makes you laugh?
‘The Intro and the Outro’ by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Very funny, very surreal and very silly!

What song makes you cry?
‘Without You’ by Nilsson. It was the first single that I ever bought and the song and his version remain the greatest sad song/performance/history combination of all time. This is possibly the single greatest record ever made…according to me! 🙂

5. What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Bobby Goldsboro, ‘Summer the First Time’ was in the charts when I had my first-ever girlfreend called Janis. It lasted 3 weeks. From euphoria to tortured pain in 21 days!

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
‘Without You’ by Tom Evans and Pete Ham of the band Badfinger. They both commited suicide allegedly due to the royalty situation regarding this song. It seems to be the ultimate expression of hopelessness due to music business sharp practices.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Europe Endless’ by Kraftwerk. The simplest most perfect distillation of their concept and yet so melodic and romantic envoking visions of a Europe that I had yet to discover.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Tied for first place: Bryan Ferry and David Bowie. They have written the greatest numbers of songs that have moved and inspired me, and that I continue to listen to.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Either an archaeologist or an artist. These two subjects are still my primary fascinations.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
There is no God nor Heaven but I will play the game. Leonard Cohen’s ‘Greatest Hits’. It the one album that I have listened to the most in the last 10 years. My iPod tells me so.

Thanks very much to Andy for answering the questions for us and thank you also to Sarah for organising this.

 

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

 

Video of the Moment #1211: OMD

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd May 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

OMD‘s newest video from new album ‘English Electric’ is for ‘Dresden’. It’s entirely animated, which is kind of a disappointment b/c Andy McCluskey’s got a very entertaining way of dancing live. The single is out on the 27th of May.

My review of the gig isn’t online yet but have a look at Martin’s amazing photos of their show at Gateshead Sage on 13 May here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwONDpVJoyE[/youtube]

 

Album Review: OMD – English Electric

 
By on Monday, 15th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

OMD English Electric coverOMD‘s triumphant return to popular music after 14 years was marked 3 years ago with 2010’s ‘History of Modern’, marked by the excellent and melodically memorable ‘New Babies, New Toys’ and ‘Sister Marie Says’. In 2013, they try their hand again with their latest LP, called ‘English Electric’. It’s an interesting and cheeky title to say the least: while NME rails on in search of the next “great British guitar band” as if to completely ignore the shift towards electronic and all the New Wave loving that has happened in recent years, the arrival of OMD’s new baby seems to herald a new age of embracing synthesisers, sequencers, the whole lot all over again. Or not?

I have always been one to be critical of the opening track of an album. Regardless of what iTunes’ agenda is, to me, the opening track sets the stage for what comes after and can be a good of a barometer as any as to how the party ahead will unfold. So if you groan as you queue up ‘Please Remain Seated’, don’t panic, you’re not the only one. There is a series of tone that are not unlike the tones you hear when the doors close on the Metro (the DC version of the tube). The first voice you hear is of a Chinese woman’s, and upon first listen, I thought, ok, something about a departing plane…surely there’s got to be more to that? I even had my other mother sit down with it to see if I’d missed anything. No, the journey is set to depart from Shanghai to Macau at a certain time… Nothing exciting there. Then there’s another, Western voice, though robotic, is clear enough for you to glean “the future that you have anticipated has been cancelled. Please remain seated and wait for further instructions”. Okay, that’s just creepy. (And later into the album, you get other weird moments with ‘Decimal’ and ‘Atomic Ranch’…)

Having been sufficiently creeped out by your introduction, you’re led into ‘Metroland’, punctuated by plinky plonky notes. The best thing about this song is Andy McCluskey’s voice, yearning in its earnestness, but not even he can really save this song. ‘Night Cafe’ suffers the same fate. The experimental ‘The Future Will Be Silent’ will excite those with less conventional tastes, with its unusual buzzings and what sounds like voices being pulled around tight corners like taffy. I think it sounds absolutely dotty. ‘Kissing the Machine’ has an affable melody you can hum to all right, but substantial it is not.

Then it all comes down to ‘Stay with Me’ to save the day. I remember reading years ago on the internet, with much interest, that it was the American market that grabbed onto the ‘If You Leave’ with its collective teeth and would not let go, pretty much ignoring the rest of OMD’s later catalogue. If that is still the case, then the Americans – and people around the world – are going to grab hold of this song this time around. With wistful lyrics (“only I’m the one to stop them falling / falling down like rain / if only I could stop those tears that knock you down again”) with a melody that is instantly recognisable, it’s the 2013 version of ‘If You Leave’ that will no doubt leave couples swaying in time at their upcoming UK shows. Mark my words.

Next track ‘Dresden’ finally speeds things up, thank goodness, and just about time. However, I don’t think is has anything to do with the German city. I don’t know about you, but when I think of synthesisers, and I think about dancing, and otherwise, ‘English Electric’ is just not the kind of album you take onto the dance floor with you. It’ s just…not. But you can count on this one being on the list being played at live shows this year. It’s the up tempo version of OMD most people love and remember.

Other moments on this album are so-so. ‘Helen of Troy’ is the ‘English Electric ‘version Joan of Arc’, going backwards in time to take the story of a courageous young woman of days gone by and paying tribute to her: “because I cannot cry / ever again”. ‘Our System’ gets points for unconventional song structure: beginning with post-industrial buzzing, it somehow ends up with an uplifting chorus…before it returns from whence it came, the whistlings of electronics.

Most confusing of all though is probably ‘Final Song’, which of course comes at the end. It has a weird ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ rhumba vibe to it, and womens’ gasps and operatic notes. Not exactly what springs to mind when you read ‘English Electric’. The lack of linearity of this album, coupled with seriously odd moments, makes this album a challenging one, even for those of us who are more likely to hug a Korg than a tree. I like Kraftwerk and Paul Humphreys makes the point in the video below that the album was made to sound “Kraftwerk-ian”, but I can’t relate. Maybe I’ll have a change of heart when I see them in Gateshead in May?

6/10

‘English Electric’, the new album from OMD, is out now on 100%. Watch the videos for ‘Metroland’ and ‘Decimal’ on this previous Video(s) of the Moment post. A video of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys explaining the album can be watched below. OMD begin a UK tour at the end of this month, starting on the 28th of April in Margate.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3DN7F-DYzk[/youtube]

 

Video(s) of the Moment #1172: OMD

 
By on Monday, 8th April 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

’80s electronic pioneers OMD released their latest album, ‘English Electric’, today, and they’ve released two more video treatments to follow the one for first single ‘Metroland’ (which you can watch in this previous Video of the Moment feature). These are for the album’s first track ‘Please Remain Seated’ and ‘Decinal’, the latter of which was animated by German artist Henning M. Lederer. Watch both visuals below.

The duo and their backing band start a new tour of the UK on the 28th of April in Margate; for more information, click here. Their next single, ‘Dresden’, drops on the 27th of May.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwPyfbQ_zs0[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZBNx6e3D_Q[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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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