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Review Mon Mar 14 2011

Review: OMD @ Park West, 3/12

Andy McCluskey
Photos by Dave Knapik

Despite the wishes of their most ardent fans and even the band themselves, no discussion of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is complete without mentioning "If You Leave". Although OMD had a string of brilliant, and far superior, songs prior to appearing on the soundtrack to John Hughes' 1986 film "Pretty in Pink", "If You Leave" catapulted them into Stateside stardom. Success can be a double-edged sword, however, and as the song became an icon in its own right, it quickly eclipsed much of their other work. It came as little surprise then that Andy McCluskey introduced it on Saturday night at the Park West as the song that nearly ended their career. The earnestness with which they performed it, however, proved that the best way to face the parts of the past you like least is by embracing them.

Paul Humphreys
Photos by Dave Knapik

Making an appearance about a third of the way through an over ninety-minute set list, "If You Leave" was an early highlight of the gig, but by no means its finest moment. The sold out Saturday night show at the Park West held an audience that wanted to hear far more than one popular song. Looking around the crowd, you could see fans of all ages singing along to classics, obscure album cuts and new tracks alike. Playing the best selections from 2010's History of Modern, OMD opened with "New Babies: New Toys" and later had the crowd bouncing along to "Sister Marie Says". For fans of an artist with a back catalog spanning several decades, it's often a bit of a drag when they roll out their new songs live. When the recent work exhibits the same pop song craftsmanship as the oldest singles, however, it's sheer pleasure.

Andy McCluskey
Photos by Dave Knapik

This touches the root of what makes OMD special: their ability to write a damn good pop song. Sure, their mastery of lush, orchestral synth arrangements is essential to the delivery, but at the core of their best efforts lies the knowledge of how to express the pain of love and loss in three or four odd minutes. The gentle sadness imbued in their music is one of hope, a sense of wistful longing that has not yet given up on trying to attain what is desired.

Andy McCluskey
Photos by Dave Knapik

From the looks of devotion on the faces of fans nearest the stage, what may have been desired by many on Saturday was lead singer Andy McCluskey himself. It's no small feat for a man of 51 years to make the heart throb, but McCluskey's seemingly limitless energy made it appear effortless. Touching audience members' hands as he sang, every attempt was made to personalize the performance for each individual watching.

Paul Humphreys
Photos by Dave Knapik

In every respect this was a fan's show. The band played some of their most loved classics like "Enola Gay", "Electricity", "Souvenir" and "Joan of Arc", yet still made room for lesser known gems like "Radio Waves" from 1983's often criminally overlooked Dazzle Ships. Synthesizer master Paul Humphreys positively beamed from behind his keyboard, clearly happy to be there to play for fans he'd not seen in ages. Their joy was contagious, and it was hard not be happy for a group that had overcome the unwelcome weight of a gigantic 80s hit to breathe new life into their full songbook for a room full of adoring fans.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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