28 September 2011

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Live in Berlin 1980

Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark are set to release a CD and book documenting their performance at the Tempodrome Berlin on 18th November 2010. The package marks the culmination of the band's recent resurgence. Following the reunion tour of Spring 2007, which brought together for the first time in more than a decade the band's founding members, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, and a well-received album of all new material this past year, OMD are riding high. Once the forgotten sons of the synth pop scene of the eighties, they are now lionized in the press as visionaries who brought together edgy even experimental music with a pure pop spirit, and their sound has become a noticeable influence on a host of a younger bands, including Mirrors and Cut Copy. It is time, then, to take stock. What made this band so unique?

OMD (as they came to be known) were different. They rarely used guitars, as did the early Gary Numan and Ultravox. Nor did they depend overly much on drum machines, like John Foxx and the Human League (Mark II), or the kind of sequencers that could be triggered by drum machines, like Depeche Mode. In their earliest incarnations, when their musical spirit was in its first and fullest ascendancy, their main instruments were often bass guitar (Andy) and a Farfisa organ, occasionally complemented by some wonky Korg monophonic synthesizer or other (Paul). Drawing inspiration from Kraftwerk and Neu!, they played along with Winston the tape recorder, setting Paul's chiming one-finger melodies against Andy's positively propulsive bass and yearning vocals on songs about communications systems and steel mills. And occasionally bursts of static and tapes of distant wireless radio broadcasts burst through the pop sheen.

What then of the reunited OMD? A cause for celebration, to be sure, but also to remember just how different they once were. The Second Chameleon and I saw the band several times in the early eighties, including one occasion on which we talked with the band back stage and explained how it was that SC had come into possession of Andy's own personal copies of his early singles (turns out Andy's mom didn't think he'd mind if she gave them to a friend of the family). The early shows, dating from the time of their second album, Organisation, were especially striking, with the core duo supplemented by a drummer and second keyboardist/saxophonist. From Andy's windmilling arms and chugging bass to the gorgeously cascading synth lines of songs like "Almost" and "Messages," the band could hold its audiences positively spellbound.

To accompany your pre-ordered copy of Live In Berlin, then, TSM offers a document of another live show in the city from 1980. It's a truly astounding performance, with plenty of rare live outings of b-sides, and an audience keen to push OMD to greater and greater heights of dizzying rapture. By the end of the second encore, when the band has played every song in their repertoire, but the delirious crowd simply won't let the house lights come up, they just start playing the set over again, and everyone goes simply mad. It's a rare document of a rare band.

--Crash the Driver


Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark - Live in Berlin at the Kant Kino 08-12-1980

01. I Betray My Friends
02. Stanlow
03. Pretending To See the Future
04. Almost
05. Messages
06. Annex
07. Mystereality
08. Julia's Song
09. Motion and Heart
10. The More I See You
11. Promise
12. Statues
13. Dancing / Red Frame White Light
14. Electricity
15. Bunker Soldiers
16. Enola Gay
17. Waiting For The Man
18. Electricity (Encore)
19. Julia's Song (Encore)
20. Enola Gay (Encore)


  1. cheers TSM! That's brilliant .. what a setlist!

  2. Saw them perform last week - great live band, excellent show. Thanks for sharing this early concert!

  3. Thanks for this - saw them last year and they were awesome! Thanks also for the VA rarities - great site!

  4. Somewhere in my archives, I have that 1979 live recording (with OMD's version of Dalek I's "Two Chameleons"). One of my personal favourite synth-pop bands, love each one of their first five albums entirely. Later on, they gave respectful singles but lost their experimental edge to ambitious over-produced sound. This one proves the strength and the beauty of early OMD. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I just love these guys, thanks.
    - jim

  6. This blog had some of the best posts by far, but it has been a while since you last posted. Is it likely to ever be updated again or can I safely remove your bookmark? : (

  7. Expect new posts coming soon . . . starting with the Flowers Peel Sessions.

  8. great blog.... many thanx frm argentina

  9. Your blog is awesome! Keep up the great work! Thanks.