[sic] Magazine

OMD with Mirrors, History Of Modern tour, Brussels AB.

Yes and no . two of the smallest words in the English language, yet pivotal to everything we do, according to OMD. Their show opens with a projection – two 3D, holographic heads are beamed out over the audience and in suitably robotic voices they explain the significance of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to our lives. Everything boils down to yes and no, according to our illusory Masters of Ceremony. OMD’s entrance is equally impressive. A skuzzy, filthy guitar announces ‘New Babies, New Toys’ and it’s as terrific an intro here as it is on the album OMD are here to promote, History Of Modern. It’s the classic OMD line-up too. Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper take the stage before Andy McCluskey walks out, laden down, seemingly by the weight of his bass guitar. ‘New Babies New Toys’ borrows a lot from Joy Divisions ‘Isolation’. I think it would like to be ‘Isolation’. McCluskey certainly wants to be like Peter Hook, thrusting and wielding his bass gamely. But it just doesn’t quite come off. Where other performers swagger, McCluskey staggers. With his white shirt and black guitar strap McCluskey could easily be mistaken for a navy rating carrying a particularly heavy anchor. It is a great song, probably the best and most worthwhile from the album, but Andy’s mugging does give it something of a pantomime feel.

Naval gazing?

Okay so far? Yes and no. The words will follow us around quite a lot tonight. One thing I’ll love OMD for is their start. Thrill No 1 comes when McCluskey announces; “We’re going to play old stuff, new stuff and stuff from in-between. This….this is old;“ and they plunge into ‘Messages’. Now that’s a song. Shortly afterwards thrill No 2 is ‘Bunker Soldiers’. I can scarcely believe it and start to harbour serious hopes that tonight’s set list will be taken from OMDs quality output, rather than the formulaic pap that plagued the latter part of their career. Was it? Well, yes and no.

Andy McCluskey

Performance itself has always been an issue for OMD. Tagged as bad dancers, Paul Humphreys remains content to hide behind either keyboard or microphone (Humphreys voices the gossamer ‘Souvenir’ and the lilting ‘Forever Live and Die’). McCluskey though prefers to tread the self-referential, self-depreciating route and therefore provides plenty of cringe-worthy moves. “Look” he warns us, “No bass. Which means it’s time for some bad dancing. And YOU’RE going to join in!” Not that we can move a muscle, it’s so rammed inside Brussels Ancienne Belgique venue. The problem isn’t that Andy McCluskey can’t dance. (He can’t, but that isn’t it.) The problem is that he seems to have a hard time being himself. The twitching and flailing arms aren’t so bad. Shirt stuck to him after three songs McCluskey certainly puts his back into it. But he thinks about it too much, stays in control and never totally gives in to the music. Compare and contrast with Ian Curtis’ spastic fly dance moves. They worked because they were for real . Curtis had gone inside himself to another place and the movements, though deranged, were compelling. McCluskey just needs to let himself go.

Earlier we witnessed a real treat. Tonight’s supporting act, Mirrors offered a punctual but hugely impressive set. The Brighton quartet do their synthpop thing in a manner which noticeably apes Kraftwerk. But their music has more of a rhythmic grind , more sensuality than the Teutonic electro meisters. You can wiggle your hips to Mirrors. Kraftwerk are a tad more dispassionate. Plus I think Mirrors have really stumbled upon their oeuvre with the clothes. Suits, ties and side-partings are the order of the day. The “50’s German banker” look, as they like to call it. I think the style has been an epiphany for the group in much the same way as Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy. When he first put on the suit everything clicked. Everything clicked for Mirrors tonight. Their crisp, clear punchy beats will be long-remembered by this crowd. OMD is the perfect slot for the band and they let nobody down. Check out their page. Tracks like ‘Ways To An End’ or ‘Look At Me’ are perfect examples of what they do this evening. History Of Modern? I think we’ve just seen the Future Of Current . And that’s Mirrors.


Before OMD, a couple appear on stage and the man proposes. Of course the lady says ‘yes’. I wonder if they vary it from show to show? I’m joking of course, it was clearly genuine and probably meant a great deal to them and others from the OMD community. The venue tonight is sold out and jam-packed with adoring OMD fans. McCluskey is therefore preaching to his converted and can’t really put a foot wrong. After running through both ‘Joan Of Arc’s you’d think he was Saint Joan and Jesus Christ rolled into one as he lapped up the applause. Admittedly I have never witnessed such an ovation during the middle of a show before. It was never ending. McCluskey milked it for all it’s worth like the Diva pro he is. Hand on his heart – “No you’re too kind – you’re the best audience we’ve had.” Oh please. Heartwarming? Embarrassing? Yes and…yes.


“Who are you going to see? OMD? You like them then?” Yes and no. After Saint Andy’s mid-set ovation things take a predicable turn for the worse. The newer material is okay (OMD have probably selected the better parts of History Of Modern) but nothing to get ecstatic over. In fact touring History Of Modern really shows it up for what it is, a cuttings album, a collection of extras, and music’s equivalent of DVD bonuses – deleted scenes. In fact it itself amounts to “old stuff, new stuff and stuff from in-between”. As such, some of it is cultured, some of it junk but at least OMD recognize what works. ‘History Of Modern Part 1’ and ‘New Holy Ground’ stand up well enough. Telling though, how few new numbers are aired. (Five?) OMD quickly revert to the dreaded greatest hits. I expected this. More than expected in fact I knew they would. McCluskey is on record saying how they’ll always play those singles because of fan expectations. So we get ‘Talking Loud and Clear’, ‘Forever Live and Die’, and the inevitable ‘Locomotion’ – four minutes that broke my heart in 1984, signaling OMD’s descent from synth pioneers to peddlers of bland, transatlantic pop. To be fair though, the OMD (s)hit parade does at least contain some good shit. ‘So In Love’ was thrilling tonight. It’s hard to believe McCluskey can still hit those high notes. But why oh why do OMD think there is any merit in dross like ‘Pandora’s Box’ or the truly abysmal ‘Sailing The Seven Seas’? C’mon guys, have some quality control. These are terrible choices. And it isn’t helped by the late-ish placement of another worthless off-cut, ‘Sister Mary Says’, previously shelved because it is a pale imitation of ‘Enola Gay’ (Which comes along shortly afterwards anyway). Confusing? Yes and no. I’d say baffling. When you consider how energized and thrilling ‘She’s Leaving’ and ‘Bunker Soldiers’ had sounded earlier, the switch to ‘Sailing The Seven Seas’ etc, is all a bit flaccid.


“Was it good”, “Did you enjoy it?” Yes and no. Of course, I’m in the minority. The room is wall to wall with the OMD fanbase, the hardcore, the devotees. And they love it. More than one disgusted look is thrown my way when I’m obviously bored or unimpressed by an OMD mid-period hit. Tonight was good, don’t get me wrong. but something was missing. And it isn’t the performance, or the sound, or the lighting or the visuals – my only problem with OMD and this show is that they can be so much better. OMD are better than this. I can’t be the only one who thinks so. There must be others, the ones at least who remember what the O, M and D actually stood for. Tonight’s set is the problem. It sums up OMD’s career for me – wonderful at the beginning, miss-stepping therein after. A sobering thought occurs to me that they played nothing tonight from Dazzle Ships. Nothing. That is scarcely believable not to mention unacceptable. Admittedly I’m old-school OMD. I must confess that I more or less expected them to play what they played. This isn’t, after all, the Architecture and Morality tour. There was still time for redemption during the encores though and here OMD blew it spectacularly. ‘If You Want It’? Dear oh dear. I’m sorry Andy but we don’t. It isn’t even an OMD song. Fact.

pretending to see the light

They close with ‘Electricity’ and again it’s hardly a surprise. I don’t know if it’s just me but I’ve never quite seen what the fuss is about. It just isn’t in the same league as ‘Enola Gay’ or ‘Messages’. Was it because it was released on Factory? Is that why it has such cult status? I’m not feeling the electricity guys and I can think of any number of encore pairings which might just have rescued tonight. They’d certainly have blown OMD’s choices away. Try; ‘Almost’ and ‘All The Things We’ve Made’. ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’ and ‘Sealand’. ‘New Stone Age’ and ‘Pretending To See The Future’. Try….. anything . Just not ‘If You Want It’.

If You Leave

With a bit more imagination and courage tonight’s show could have been stunning. It wasn’t. It was so-so. Coming here was a little like having a one night stand with an ex girlfriend – a fun idea at the beginning but half way through you begin to wish you hadn’t. Remember one thing though, I’m measuring OMD by their own high standards here. ‘So-so’ from them is better than most can offer. They were always the best synth pop band, bar none. Sure Dépêche Mode got seriously interesting after Vince Clarke left but I’d take the first four OMD albums any day.

Did I enjoy the evening? Let’s just say it’s nice to see OMD still active – extinguished perhaps, but still alive. Would I do it all again? Certainly.

~OMD photography with kind permission Jakke. For the full photo-shoot please visit the Jakke Blog via the link below.~

OMD Official


History Of Modern

Jakke OMD photo-shoot.