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article imageOrchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Performs Modern History Special

By Bryen Dunn     Mar 6, 2011 in Entertainment
Toronto - The band Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD) chose Toronto to launch their current North American tour that will see them playing 16 shows over the next three weeks, including three at SXSW in Austin, TX.
For those who have followed the band since their debut 1980 release, or for new fans just tuning in to the current release, this show is guaranteed satisfaction for all. Opening act Oh Land caught the attention of those who arrived early enough to catch her 8pm performance. This Brooklyn based Danish transplant was actually discovered by Epic Records at 2009's SXSW. She then released her US debut EP on October 19, 2010, and her full album is due out March 15th 2011. She's slated to do the majority of the tour dates with OMD, which will introduce her euphoric pop sounds to a larger audience.
OMD then hit the stage to the applause of adoring, and enduring, fans. From the opening track 'New Babies, New Toys' to the closing encore song, 'Electricity' the sold-out Phoenix (410 Sherborne Street) was a sea of nodding heads from the mostly middle-aged audience. Opening with a track off their current release, 'History of Modern', and closing with their first ever single release from 1980, made for an interesting reversal of their music discography from modern to history.
I had a chance to chat with Paul Humphreys prior to the gig, to quiz him on what’s it like to be recording and touring together as original members for over 30 years, and why they chose Toronto to begin their tour. He confessed, "We've always had an affection for Canada, and would have loved to have played more cities like Vancouver. The whole tour came together quite quickly after we were asked to play SXSW, and then thought why not do mini-tour while we're already over there." As for the inspiration for releasing new material, Humphreys cited, "honestly we thought if we were going to tour, then we might as well release some new material so we don't just appear as another retro band playing their hits."
Eric's Club in Liverpool (England) was where the debut performance of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark took place in October 1978, with original founding members Andy McCluskey (vocals, bass guitar, keyboards) and Paul Humphreys (vocals, keyboards). They had initially christened themselves VCLXI , after a valve diagram on the sleeve of Kraftwerk's Radioactivity album, one of their greatest inspirations. It wasn’t much later when famed Factory Record’s honcho Tony Wilson let them record their debut single ‘Electricity’ which quickly became OMD’s theme song and maintained its status as a live favourite up to present day.
They then went on tour in support of Gary Numan, and by 1980 were on their way to success with the multi-million selling single ‘Enola Gay’. Numan let the band travel on his bus, and they later returned the favour by having Numan support their stadium tour of the mid 1990’s. Martin Cooper (keyboards, saxophone) and Malcolm Holmes (drums) were soon added to the lineup, which remains in effect today. Several more singles followed including ‘Souvenir’, ‘Locomotion’, and their entry card to North America, 'If You Leave', specifically written for the John Hughes movie 'Pretty In Pink'.
At the end of the 1980’s three of the four band members left, citing musical differences, and left McCluskey to continue on his own under the same moniker. Two albums were released before McCluskey decided to take a pause and focus on management and production, most notably for Atomic Kitten who achieved nominal success in the UK. The other members founded the short lived The Listening Pool. Humphreys admitted the split was amicable, and "our lawyers were the ones that may have made it appear messy".
Amends were made, and in 2007 the original lineup embarked on an extensive UK and European tour showcasing their classic' Architecture & Morality' album played in its entirety, followed by a selection of their most classic hits. The positive response and success of this tour lead to the recording of their 11th release ‘History of Modern’, the first since 1996. A lot has transpired in the music industry during their tenure, and Humphreys sees this as "both a blessing and a curse." He likes the fact that everything is so accessible, but he also states, "the digital age killed the album. Most people go online and grab specific songs they like based on 30 second snippets, and the whole album concept achieved by listening to the whole thing is lost."
As for who he’s listening to these days, he gives nods to The XX and Canada’s own Arcade Fire. He gave a special acknowledgement to Arcade Fire compatriot Owen Pallett, who recorded with the band on their first release and then toured with them, both as a violinist and their opening act. Humphrey admits, “He’s a great instrumentalist, and he actually has a [url=http://‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4qkh66zlxI t=_blank]video on YouTube where he plays music from our ‘Dazzle Ships’ album.
The tune ‘Sister Marie Says’ has elements in the song that were originally composed in 1981 and a reworked version of the track was due to appear on a 1996 album, but got shelved because it sounded too much like early OMD. Asked about this delayed release, Humphreys joked, "We're actually really green as a band. We don't toss any songs out, we just recycled them."
McCluskey asked fans to embrace his atheist ways just prior to launching into the live rendition.. It’s quite ironic that it now works just perfectly some three decades later, providing for another twisted play on the current album title, history is modern!
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