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Review: OMD return to the Cambridge Corn Exchange

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Andy McCluskey, OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) main man, told the Cambridge Independent back in May that he hoped the band’s November gig would go ahead as scheduled and without restrictions.

OMD at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on November 7, 2021. Picture: Adrian Peel
OMD at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on November 7, 2021. Picture: Adrian Peel

“I don’t want to do socially distanced gigs,” he said. “I don’t want to play the Corn Exchange to 400 people – I want it rammed.” And it was – on Sunday, November 7 – as the quartet's Architecture & More tour came to Cambridge’s largest indoor venue.

The current nationwide jaunt is to celebrate 40 years of Architecture & Morality, OMD’s third studio album, which is regarded as one of the best and most innovative albums of the 80s. The band performed the record in its entirety, but not in the exact order that the tracks appear on the album.

OMD - Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys
OMD - Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys

Andy explained that they wanted to start with a slow number (Sealand) so from that moment on, the rest of the evening would go in an upwards trajectory, in terms of the energy level. He was right.

Indeed, that amazing energy and enthusiasm that Andy and his bandmates - Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Stuart Kershaw - always provide and successfully maintain without flagging is a constant pleasure to behold and especially impressive given how long they’ve been making music.

Andy revealed that the reason that She’s Leaving was never released as single was thanks to “someone called McCluskey” refusing. “What a t**t!” he joked. “How would you like to hear the three songs that were released as singles?” he asked. The answer was a resounding yes.

Souvenir, Joan of Arc and Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) are among OMD’s finest songs and the former, beautifully sung as usual by Paul Humphreys, is always a highlight.

Andy praised the “bloody great vibe” that he and the others tend to experience at every Cambridge Corn Exchange gig. He noted that many people in the crowd seemed to be wearing OMD T-shirts, commenting that in Hull two days previously many attendees were wearing Gary Numan T-shirts.

After the band had played Architecture & Morality in full, it treated the fans to numerous high-octane favourites spanning the decades – including superb new song Don’t Go – coming one after the other in rapid succession.

Tesla Girls, History of Modern (Part 1), (Forever) Live and Die, So in Love, Locomotion, and Pandora’s Box were all absolutely outstanding and had the audience members keenly dancing along.

Andy still possesses a strong and very impressive voice, and his unrestrained dancing was as enjoyable as ever. My favourite OMD tune, Sailing on the Seven Seas, shone as brightly as ever too, and then the final song of the main set, the pleasingly uptempo Enola Gay, closed off the proceedings most satisfactorily.

The quartet came back on stage to perform a three-song encore, which began with the catchy If You Leave. Andy commented on just how old these still fresh-sounding songs they were playing actually are – Architecture & Morality is 40 years old and “this one is 45 years old” he said ahead of the manic Electricity, OMD’s first single.

OMD at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on November 7, 2021. Picture: Adrian Peel
OMD at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on November 7, 2021. Picture: Adrian Peel

He noted that they usually finish with that one, but tonight ended with the more sombre The Romance of the Telescope, a bonus track from Architecture & Morality.

As well as the solid rapport that OMD has built up with the Corn Exchange crowd over the years, the band members themselves seem to have a great relationship, displayed most notably in the on-stage banter between McCluskey and Humphreys.

“Paul ‘Easy Job’ Humphreys!” announced Andy when introducing his long-time friend and bandmate at the end. “Andy ‘Even Easier Job’ McCluskey!” joked Paul, who also assured us that “We’ll see you again.”

OMD. Picture: Alex Lake
OMD. Picture: Alex Lake

Witnessing the immense spectacle of the OMD live show is always an emotionally rewarding experience – this was the fifth time I’d seen them in four years – and that was once again the case tonight. It’s clear each time that Cambridge loves OMD, and I do too. That said, any chance of squeezing in Secret and/or Dream of Me (Based On Love’s Theme) next time, please guys?

For more on OMD, and to check on tour dates, go to omd.uk.com.

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