Review: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark celebrates 40 years of electronic pioneering in St. Petersburg

O. M. Effing. D.

click to enlarge Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - JOSH BRADLEY
Josh Bradley
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Over 40 years of synth-pop jams doesn’t always mean you’ll sound solid forever. In the case of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), that ideology doesn’t apply.

Saturday night at St. Petersburg’s Jannus Live, the English four-piece presented a healthy career retrospective, full of hits, deep cuts, and banter between founding members—and lead creative forces—keyboardist Paul Humphrey and original lead singer Andy McCluskey.
It’s unsafe to say that OMD comes around here incredibly often, but it hasn’t been terribly long since we last saw the band, mainly thanks to COVID-19, which axed the band’s 40th anniversary tour. This year, its 42nd anniversary is being celebrated on the properly-titled "Souvenir" tour, and though this is technically a nostalgia tour, McCluskey’s physicality, Humphrey’s everlasting ability, and with assistance from original backing band member Martin Cooper, and newish drummer Stuart Kershaw, you’d think that OMD was still in its prime.

Before the guys who brought us “Enola Gay” took the stage—Grand Rapids-based rock duo In The Valley Below—played a half-hour long set, comprised of mainly new material.

“Oh wait, you don’t know who we are. They’re all new songs,” guitarist Jeffrey Jacob Mendel joked. There were definitely some who had some idea of the band’s existence, as the duo had just rocked Bananas Music earlier in the day, as a part of the store’s Record Store Day celebration.

click to enlarge Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - JOSH BRADLEY
Josh Bradley
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

A little after 10 p.m., “Atomic Ranch” blared through the speakers, as OMD took the stage. After kicking off with “Stanlow,” the closing track from its 1980 sophomore record, Organisation, Andy began maniacally dancing on both sides of the stage while singing a newer addition to the band’s discography “Isotype.” He would then bounce into bassist-singer mode on “Messages.”

“If I’m holding my bass, you know it’s gonna be a long one,” he said, keeping it on until the end of “Tesla Girls.”

“Now that you’ve shown me how to dance, I’ve gotta teach you how to dance like me, you lucky bastards,” Andy declared before sprinting into “History of Modern, Pt. 1.”

He wasn’t the only one who wanted to show off his sick moves, though. Often times, he’d switch musical duties—and spots—with Humphrey, standing in the back on stage left, behind a synth. The first time this happened was on “(Forever) Live and Die,” which included Andy harmonizing with Paul from behind the synth. Another occurrence was during the tour’s namesake, “Souvenir,” which Andy slapped his bass on, and Paul went back to his synth and sang leads on, just like on the original recording. “Did you take your glasses off to come up front, you vain twat?” Andy asked.

The banter that took place between the two was very much like what you hear between songs at a show from The Who. There were insults, innuendos, and the occasional grateful comment. “Do you know what hole to blow into?” Andy asked Paul after joking about the idea of a bagpipe solo on “(Forever) Live And Die.”

click to enlarge Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - JOSH BRADLEY
Josh Bradley
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

The two OG’s would then return to their rightful positions, lift their hands in the air, and initiate a clap-along on “Joan of Arc,” appropriately followed by “Maid of Orleans.” “If Joan of Arc had a heart/Would she give it as a gift?” Andy sang. The Joan theme would come to an end shortly after, when all four band members moved into a horizontal, centerstage line, Eagles-style, for “Statues,” which included a telephone message opening, and Stuart Kershaw banging on what appeared to be a sort of digital drum kit contraption, squeezed into one single drum.

Andy later shouted out the band’s friend Vince Clark—of early Depeche Mode and Erasure fame—before dusting off “Almost,” a recent mainstay in OMD’s setlists. “So In Love” finally saw Martin Cooper pick up a sax, leaving Paul Humphrey to man the synth ship for a minute or two.

“You tired yet?” Andy asked the crowd. “We’ve still got about four-and-a-half hours to go.” Age is just a number to the band, because Andy and friends could have easily gone all night. But alas, the bigger songs and title tracks came about, meaning that the end was nigh.

The group’s latest album title track, 2017’s “The Punishment of Luxury,” saw Andy point into the crowd, seeking the “lazy girl” and “dirty boy” mentioned. Cooper did another solo on “Sailing The Seven Seas,” and Andy fist-bumped him before returning to his gyrated frontman form. It wouldn’t last long, because he had to go back to his bass on “Enola Gay.”

“This is your last chance to dance,” he warned. It wasn’t, but before an encore, who takes that saying seriously anyway?

click to enlarge In The Valley Below - JOSH BRADLEY
Josh Bradley
In The Valley Below

An encore of “If You Leave” and “Secret" did indeed occur, after about two minutes of “OMD” chants from the packed, standing-room crowd at Jannus Live.

“You know the rules,” someone onstage said upon the band’s return to the stage. Before one last song, Andy, bass in hand, took the mic one more time. “We gotta let you go, because you all gotta go to church tomorrow. You all look like sinners to me,” he joked.

If rocking out to the finale of “Electricity” is sinful, I guess I’ll see you in hell.