To my delight for the past two years, bands from the 80’s have been touring US music venues. It was around 1978 when I first heard electronic synth sounds which transfixed me, so I begged to hear more. Music by the Human League, Gary Numan, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and OMD were just a few bands in my 80’s music repository. Much like Ska music, this genre made me happy. I wanted to get up, bop endlessly and flail my arms and legs uncontrollably until I was soaking in sweat.
It has been 23 years since the British synth/electronic band, OMD – Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark – had toured the US. So when I received word via SongKick they would be playing at Terminal 5 in NYC on July 17th, I frantically emailed my friends to rally the troops.
As usual, the first thing that popped into my mind was “what the heck am I going to wear?” Here’s the low down: chose a taxi cab yellow felt fascinator with a self fabric strip of swiss cheese stitched to the crown, created by Kasia of Kagikagi. Next, how should I style my hair to match a “cheesy hat?” I opted for a 1940’s side roll reminiscent of an oversized, flaky, toasted croissant. I succeeded in creating an “edible head.” I never tire of leopard so I completed my look with a 1950’s inspired dress by Pink Tartan.
I love the music venue Terminal 5 because it is so easy to get to from the West Side Highway. There’s ample parking across the street and the entire venue is wheelchair accessible with an area set up near the stage for disabled people.
I didn’t know what to expect from OMD in a live performance. I love all their songs, but would they put on an energetic performance? YES! Lead singer and writer Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphries tore up the night with enthusiasm, moxie and non stop dancing. I am so used to seeing American men over the age of 50 overweight, wheezing and ruddy, thanks to a typical diet of Big Macs, caffeinated energy drinks and mid lunch stops through a creamy donut drive thru, I automatically assumed Andy’s performance would lack stamina. After all, the American fast food culture has clawed its way all the way to England where obesity is on the rise worldwide thanks to the McCrap sandwich.
Well, I was wrong. Andy showed up sinewy, handsome, energetic as ever and without a defibrillator. He didn’t stop flailing his arms and jumping up and down the entire performance.
They performed 23 songs with the entire show lasting about an hour and 45 minutes. I was a teenager again when they performed “Almost“, “Electricity“, “So in Love with You“, “Locomotion“, “Tesla Girls” and the politically contentious anti-war song addressing the bombing of Hiroshima, “Enola Gay.”
My heart jumped out of my chest when Andy mentioned he saw the Edward Hopper exhibit that day, which is going on at the Whitney Museum until October. Not only do I plan on seeing the exhibit of one of my favorite all time American artists, but their 1985 album cover, CRUSH, is reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting. (It is actually painted by Paul Slater). In fact, Andy is such an avid Hopper fan, the song “Night Cafe” is inspired by Hopper’s painting, “Nighthawks.”
The highlight of the evening was when they played their hit “If You Leave” which was recorded for the soundtrack to the 1986 film “Pretty in Pink.” This is their best-known US song, but also their most sappy, gotta sell out to Hollywood-love song, which Andy usually introduces as “..and now for a bit of Hollywood…” or something to that effect.
My whole evening reached its pinnacle when Andy came off the stage, down the stairs and made a bee-line towards me to give me a big hug. I wrapped my arms around his hulking sweaty body and was completely star struck. My guess is when he took one look at my “cheese hat” on stage, he had to come off to take a closer look. He is an artist after all.
Ultimately, by night’s end there were so many positive highlights. Their abstract songs resonate with me and clearly the crowd. People of all ages relate to the brilliance of musical styles that formed in the 80’s and how OMD in particular, influenced bands to this day. What I love about them is that they are self professed, untrained classical musicians. Andy confessed that he writes melodies by ear. He makes no pretense about it either. I love that they are unpretentious and don’t go on and on about their “craft” as so many pretentious artists do. I care about how they ultimately create the end product.
I left the show deliriously happy, drove back over the George Washington Bridge with OMD blaring in my car. Driving, I gazed to my left and saw a huge illuminated crescent shaped moon gazing at me. I chortled and thought “that moon is the shape of my croissant styled hairdo,” which I fashioned especially for OMD. I love symbolism, irony and coincidences. The music was blasting, my hair intact and I felt gratitude for witnessing the artistry and beauty of music that I heard for the first time in the 80’s yet sounded just as fresh and new in 2013.
Hair styled by Peggy Marzell.