Orchestral Manoeuvering In The Dark

This will be the lone non-theme related post for SHOCKTOBER! but in a sense, OMD, whose acronym forms one of my favorite band names as well as favorite bands, represents some spectral autumnal vibe. Their early Eno-Kraftwerkian songs such as “Genetic Engineering” were the analog roots of their arctic synth pan-global airwave warning melodies that fused with pure dance music such as “Enola Gay” and “Electricity.” Their big claim to American fame came via John Hughes although they already had a cult Yank base of clove-smoking, black-clad new romantics. Andy McCluskey and Paul Humprheys wrote smart, engaging post-modern pop tinged with the fear of Future Shock (speaking of, my ECO-HORROR SPOOKTACULAR will be in a venue in SF. But you know this. And so maybe this post has come full circle). I’ve followed the band’s trajectory over the years, no fairweather fan am I, loved their mostly unnoticed 90’s discs, few tho they were. I’m glad they’re finding success back on the road after reforming in 2007 to a legion of sold-out shows and adoring fans, as their appearance at The Warfield proved last night. Under a veil of drizzle, aprops OMD ambiance, the band started in epic old-school style with a stunning version of “Stanlow,” an industrial lullaby from 1980’s seminal, “Organisation.” McCluskey sounded incredible live (and on bass) as did Humphreys on one big gray synth backed up by Martin Cooper on keys and saxophone, and Malcolm Holmes on strong, subtle drums. I had expected a lower-key show given the band’s thematics but was quite surprised by McCluskey’s sheer physical energy and presence, doing the best new wave dancing I’ve seen since the video for Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth.” The wily dancing crowd even vocally provided the synth leads for a song or two. The standout was one of their best tunes, “Statues,” a melancholic somber meditation delivered under chiascuro lighting and expert musicianship. As we walked from the theatre into the rain-slicked streets, I thought about the distance from those wistful days of awe and angst to a new century of hope and rage, all those lives connected by sonic electricity…It was a great show.

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