Review | OMD at Portsmouth Guildhall: 'Andy McCluskey's an extremely charismatic frontman'

I’d never given that much thought to seeing Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), but my wife likes them so I went along with her wondering what it would be like.
OMD live in 2024OMD live in 2024
OMD live in 2024

‘Wow,’ was the answer – so impressive, so enjoyable, with the somewhat ageing crowd acting like it was the 1980s again (me included).

The warm-up was a Glaswegian five-piece Walt Disco, very enthusiastic and clearly looking forward to touring the US with OMD. For me the vocals were not easy to hear but it was clear that vocalist James Potter has a great voice with a good range when it was easier to hear. I would also commend drummer Jack Martin. Influences seems to vary from Bowie to Sparks with a touch of Lena Lovich (for those of an age) although my wife and I differed on Scissor Sisters.

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Then followed 100 minutes plus of a quite fantastic show for the mainly (late) middle-aged audience, pretty evenly split between men and women. When the lights go down we get the first glimpse of some inventive, thought-provoking videos (a fifth member of the band if you like) throughout linked directly to each song

Starting with a new song Anthropocene from their 2024’s Bauhaus Staircase, the first of seven from that album, all of which received a very positive reaction from the audience – no mean feat.

We then went into the familiar, Messages then Tesla Girls, with Andy McCluskey’s clear vocals echoing around the arena. He’s an extremely charismatic frontman, very much at ease in his self-deprecating way, energetic, unique in the style of his stage movement, and in fabulous voice.

Keys players Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper (plus occasional saxophone) laid down some terrific sounds but, for me, the whole thing was driven and enhanced by drummer Stuart Renshaw, understated but raising the whole performance to a level I never expected, especially on the brilliant Joan of Arc (highlight of the evening for me) and Sailing on the Seven Seas.

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Two of the newer songs (Veruschka and Healing) saw all four band members at the front of the stage, the “acoustic” set, both lovely songs, ending with Andy joking: “That’s the end of the cultural part of the show, back to the mindless dancing nonsense”.

The show accelerates with crowd-pleasers So in Love, Dreaming, Locomotion, Seven Seas and of course Enola Gay, with just about everyone “dad dancing”, arm aloft.

They encore with the new Look at You Now, then Pandora’s Box to finish with Electricity, exactly what was created by OMD for the audience.

I spoke to a nice couple queuing up and sat next to another couple during the show, all big OMD fans, and they were all correct, OMD are a brilliant live band.

This was the fourth time for OMD in Portsmouth…..roll on the fifth.