The full brilliance of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD, for short) was on display last night at Terminal 5, part of the reunited band's first American tour in 23 years.
The electro-pop pioneers rolled out their bouncy ode to female followers of the Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla, “Tesla Girls,” and their gorgeous synth-pop suite of tribute to the 15th century French hero Joan of Arc – prime examples of the band's ability to use pop songs to transmit complex ideas with college-level references. They delivered their smash hit “If You Leave” (jokingly described by singer/bassist Andy McCluskey as “the song that ruined our careers”) from the John Hughes classic “Pretty in Pink.” And the British quartet, led by McCluskey and singer/keyboardist Paul Humphreys, introduced enough great material from their new album “The History of Modern” to show that this was no pure-nostalgia tour.
But maybe the most impressive feat of the 95-minute sold-out show was the way they showed how well they know their audience.
“You look completely terrified that we opened with a new song,” teased McCluskey, after “New Babies: New Toys.” However, they quickly soothed those fears with a trio of electro-pop classics -- “Messages,” “Tesla Girls” and “Radio Waves.”
They skillfully moved between old and new without losing any of the momentum built as fans reminisced with the band's new wave breakthroughs “So in Love” and “Locomotion,” and McCluskey led them through with the same charmingly spastic dance moves that he used back in the day -- a combination that could have inspired both Coldplay's Chris Martin and Vanilla Ice. “This is a new song,” McCluskey said, as he inserted the new potential dance anthem “Sister Mary Says” in between. “But don't worry, it's fantastic.”
McCluskey was right, as he was throughout the night. “Looks like they remember,” he told Humphreys.
The crowning achievement for OMD had to be the continued strength of “Enola Gay,” their dance anthem about the plane that bombed Hiroshima during World War II, and “Electricity,” the single McCluskey and Humphreys wrote when they were 16 that showed how new technologies could be adapted for pop.
“We had no idea what to expect, we've been gone so long,” McCluskey said. “We're sorry to have been gone for 23 years . . . We'll be back very soon.”
SETLIST: Intro: History of Modern Part II / New Babies: New Toys / Messages / Tesla Girls / Radio Waves / History Of Modern Part 1 / (Forever) Live and Die / If You Leave / Souvenir / Joan Of Arc / Maid Of Orleans / New Holy Ground / Green / Talking Loud And Clear / So In Love / Sister Mary Says / Locomotion / Dreaming / Sailing on the Seven Seas / Enola Gay // ENCORE: Walking On The Milky Way / Electricity