– The Apollo, Manchester –

There’s a giddy atmosphere from the moment you step into the Apollo tonight, a sense that there’s a party about to unfold, but OMD celebrating forty years of being a band is much more than just a nostalgia trip. Make no mistake, this is a band that are still capable of writing great tunes, with last album 2019’s ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ skilfully blended Kraftwerk-esque minimalism with sublime electro riffs.

They open with the atmospheric ‘Stanlow’ with its synth chords, from keyboard wizard Paul Humphries, industrial rhythms, and frontman Andy McCluskey’s gentle vocals, it’s such a mesmerising electro tune. It’s clear that although some are here for the big 80s hits, of which there are bucket loads, amongst all the pop classics, there’s a vibrant pioneering electro band at the heart of it all. It seems that only now they’re truly getting the recognition they deserve as electro pioneers. Since their reformation in 2006, the three albums released have all been monumental, and from ‘Punishment Of Luxury’, we get the brilliant ‘Isotype’ with its synths and robotic voice samples. They play a set which draws on their entire forty year history as McCuskey states “we’re going to do some songs you know, some early ones, some weird ones, some new ones”.

The ‘weird ones’ aren’t particularly that obscure, we get the atmospheric ‘Statues’  from 1980’s ‘Organisation’ and the beautifully minimalist early tune ‘Almost’ from 1980’s ‘OMD’ album. Then it’s on to the full on crowd pleasers. McCluskey dances around the stage, doing his exuberant arms flailing everywhere routine, which gives hope to everyone who thinks they can’t dance! There’s plenty of others all around us getting carried away too, from the fifty plus couples next to us who start leaping around to the throws of ‘Tesla Girls’, and ‘Seven Seas’ to the younger dance-electro heads. These classics just keep on coming and for a while I’m transported back to 1980s Top Of The Pops episodes, dancing around my living room to ‘Locomotion’. They end with the evergreen classic ‘Enola Gay’ which still sounds as fresh and relevant today as it did in the 80s, before re-emerging for a brief encore with their ‘Hollywood’ tune ‘If You Leave’  from the Pretty In Pink film, and leave us with the synth riffs of ‘Electricity’ ringing in our ears.

With many bands now citing OMD as an influence, as well as keeping the 80s nostalgia crowd happy, OMD seem to be as relevant now as ever, as McCluskey reveals that Vince Clarke (formerly of Depeche Mode) told him he wanted Depeche Mode to be an electro band after hearing OMDs single Enola Gay. No OMD, no Depeche Mode, (possibly)! It’s easy to forget amongst all the 80s pop hits that essentially they’re a northwest band (from the Wirral) who love the likes of Kraftwerk, Joy Division and whose debut album was produced by legendary producer Martin Hannett. Tonight’s set showed not only have they got the hits to power through an astoundingly good live set, but great new(ish) material to draw on too. A brilliant set by the electro pioneers.

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.