“I’m just going to say a few words” OMD lead singer Andy McCluskey announced not long after the pioneering British electronic act took the stage at St. Petersburg’s State Theater on Friday night.
“New songs. Old songs. Dancing!”
And, with that succinct disclaimer, the energetic and spirited frontman pretty much set the agenda for the 100-minute blast of music that ensued. The sold-out crowd gathered to both dance and and hear the quirky electronic dance numbers the band has been creating since its debut single in 1979 — and did it ever have plenty of opportunities to do both. As promised, the four-piece, synth-driven outfit cleverly wove songs from its most current album, 2017’s exquisite The Punishment of Luxury into plenty of the new wave dance club hits from OMD’s entire catalog.
“I hope you brought your dancing shoes” McCluskey sternly warned at one point of the show. From the hearty response the statement was met with to the spontaneous swaying, bopping and bouncing that took place for the duration of the night, McCluskey’s words were justified.
Leading the non-stop dancing was McCluskey himself; the 58-year old singer, bassist and occasional keyboardist wasn’t still for a second. Making his way from one side of the stage to the other while moving, gyrating and swinging his arms in between verses, the singer displayed the stamina of someone half his age. His black button-up shirt was drenched in sweat not long after the first number, but that didn’t stop him. Still delivering his distinctive baritone vocals flawlessly while engaging in his manic dancing, Andy led the group through one of the most enjoyable and compelling shows on a local stage in recent memory.
The heartiest response came when OMD launched into its dancefloor classic, “If You Leave,” a new-wave mega hit from 1986’s teen romantic comedy Pretty in Pink. As audience members sang along to every lyric of the song, the band seemed pleased with the exuberant choruses being sung back to them from the theater’s main floor as well as from the inhabitants in the balcony. But that number came early in the set and for those who might have only been familiar with that decade-defining, 80’s staple, OMD provided plenty more thrills and highlights that more than pleased diehards as well as casual fans.
McCluskey commanded that the enthralled crowd jump in unison during “History of Modern (Part I)” for which they gladly complied. Digging back to early cuts like “Messages,” “Enola Gay,” “Joan of Arc” and “Tesla Girls,” OMD reminded the mostly over-40-something crowd of those bygone nights spent in dark, smoky alternative clubs, dancing the night away to these tunes.
Co-founder and singer Paul Humphreys had his moments in the spotlight, too. Coming from around his keyboard/synth racks to take the mic, he let his sweet, smooth voice flawlessly carry tunes like “Souvenir” and “(Forever) Live and Die.” Longtime keyboardist and sax player Martin Cooper silently, but steadily, provided ambiance and punch to the band’s repertoire while hard-working drummer Stuart Kershaw pounded out beats all night to serve as the foundation for plenty of OMD’s thumping dance numbers.
Visibly amazed at the raucous responses OMD drew all night, McCluskey and Humphreys assured the enthralled crowd that they’d definitely be back to the area, which, naturally, drew more spirited crowd noise.
Aptly closing with the record that started it all for the band, their debut single “Electricity” from the days when OMD was known by its full moniker, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, McCluskey again used the moment to interject another spoken message to the tireless, vigorous audience: “We just provide the soundtrack. You create the atmosphere!” OMD did both, and plenty more, on Friday night and proved its place in the world of smart synth-pop and the longevity they’ve so richly amassed through the years.