Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark live 1979 to 1983
I first saw Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on 21st September 1979 when they supported Gary Numan on tour at Newcastle City Hall. This was the original two piece band featuring Andy McCluskey on vocals and bass and side-kick Paul Humphreys on vocals and keyboards. Oh, and not to forget “Winston”, their friendly four track tape-recorder, on backing tracks. My memories are of crazy (or cool; all depending upon your point of view) dancing by Andy and that great first single “Electricity”. This was before the release of their eponymous first album in early 1980. OMD hit the chart big-time later in 1980 with the very catchy “Enola Gay”; an anti-war song entitled after the plane which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, during the final stages of World War II. By the time they played Newcastle Polytechnic on 18th November 1980, OMD were massively popular and tickets sold out immediately. By now Andy and Paul had augmented the OMD line-up with the addition of Martin Cooper (saxophone) and Malcolm Holmes (drums). This tour was to promote Organisation which was their second album, and support came from Fatal Charm. The students union ballroom was packed to the walls that night; and the band got a great reception, with “Enola Gay” and “Electricity” being stand-outs. Exactly one year later to the very day, on 18th November 1981, OMD were headlining at Newcastle City Hall on the Architecture & Morality tour, to promote their their third album. Support came from Random Hold. I saw the band once more, on 23rd April 1983, when they returned to the City Hall as part of their the Dazzle Ships tour (to promote their fourth album). Support came this time from the Cocteau Twins, featuring the beautiful voice of Elisabeth Fraser. The Cocteau Twins were on the cusp of success at the time (this was just before the release of “Pearly Dew Drops Drop”). The classic four-piece OMD line-up split in the late ’80s, and they reunited in 2005.
A setlist from the 1981 tour: Architecture & Morality; The Romance Of The Telescope; Sealand; Pretending To See The Future; Messages; Almost; Mystereality; Joan of Arc; Motion And Heart; Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans); Statues; Souvenir; New Stone Age; Enola Gay: Bunker Soldiers; Electricity. Encore: She’s Leaving; Julia’s Song; Stanlow.
Archive for the ‘Cocteau Twins’ Category
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark live 1979 to 1983
Massive Attack v Adam Curtis Manchester International Festival 7 July 2013
This was a very different sort of performance. Adam Curtis is a film and documentary maker, whose work explores politics and philosophy. For this event, commissioned by the Manchester International Festival, he has worked with Bristol trip hop legends Massive Attack to produce an experience which explores power and politics and their impact on all of us. Adam calls the performance “a Gilm” – “a new way of integrating a gig with a film that has a powerful overall narrative and emotional individual stories. The show will be a bit of a total experience. You will be surrounded by all kinds of images and sounds. But it is also about ideas. It tells a story about how a new system of power has risen up in the modern world to manage and control us. A rigid and static system that has found in those images and sounds a way of enveloping us in a thin two-dimensional version of the past.” David came up from London especially for the event, and we drove down from home via Leeds, where we picked up Laura who had been attending a friend’s birthday barbecue celebrations. The venue for the event was the Mayfield Depot, Manchester, which is a disused and somewhat spooky old building, right next to Piccadilly station. We arrived at the venue at 8.15pm and waited in anticipation for the start which came at 9pm prompt, at which time, we were all directed along with 1,500 others into a dark space completely surrounded by giant screens on three sides. The screens then showed Curtis’ new documentary Everything Is Going According to Plan, while Massive Attack played at the end of the room, from behind a translucent screen. The film took us through a story of how politics, the advent of computers and the proliferation of data, war and the financial crisis have all set out to control and plan our destiny and how ultimately “The Plan” has failed. This was achieved through a mash-up of news images and some quite bizarre selections of scenes from Bambi, Mary Poppins, and Jane Fonda’s work-out video (? :)). Massive Attack’s soundtrack ranged from their own doomy, deep bass-laden soundscapes which rocked and vibrated the very foundations of the space, to a series of quite off-the-wall covers performed by guest vocalists and long-time collaborators Elizabeth Frazer (formerly of the Cocteau Twins) and reggae singer Horace Andy. These covers included Nirvana’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night, Burt Bacharach’s The Look of Love and Baby Its You, The Archie’s Sugar Sugar and Barbra Streisand’s My Colouring Book. The highlight for me was Elisabeth Frazer’s performances of The Look of Love, and My Colouring Book; the latter is one of my favourite songs. Elizabeth stood centre stage behind a screen; a giant image of her own face projecting over her, softly wringing the emotion out of each word, in that haunting etherial voice. Rarely have I heard and seen such a passionate and authentic performance of a song. She was simply stunning; it was worth attending the event for her performance of My Colouring Book alone. The “gilm” concluded with an upbeat message, reaffirming that we were in control of our own destiny and that we could change the world. The final slogan displayed on the screens told us to “Now Find Your Own Way Home”. We were directed out of the building in a quite different direction to the one in which we entered; guided only by one extremely bright searchlight. As we passed through the derelict building, we were watched over by a guard with an alsatian dog; the dog barked loudly at us. All quite strange. Did it work? Yes in part. It was certainly a unique and impressive experience. I felt that some of the images were a little too bizarre, and some a little too obvious, as were some of the slogans. But I’m pleased I attended, and I am delighted that I had the opportunity to witness Elizabeth Fraser’s haunting performance; it is some 30 years since I last saw her perform in the Cocteau Twins.
“This is the room that I sleep in and walk in; And weep in and hide in; That nobody, nobody’s seen; Oh, colour it lonely, please” (My Colouring Book; Ebb and Kander, 1962).
Cocteau Twins Newcastle Tiffanys 1984
I went along to this gig with my mate Dave. We weren’t that familiar with the band’s music other than the exquisite “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” single. I recall that the place was absolutely packed to the rafters, to the extent that you could hardly move at all. We were surprised just how popular the band were. I’m afraid I don’t recall whether or not we saw support act Felt. I remember being impressed by vocalist Elizabeth Fraser, whose “distinctive singing earned much critical praise. She was once described as “the voice of God.” (from Wiki). This band has somewhat legendary status these days, so I’m pleased I got to see them. I had a t-shirt from the gig, which was worn out and thrown away some years ago. I’ve just checked their gigography and now realise that I also saw The Cocteau Twins a year earlier in 1983, supporting Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. A recording exists of the Tiffanys gig, featuring the tracks: “Hitherto”, “Kookaburra”, “Sugar Hiccup”, and “Pearly Dewdrops Drops”. A review of the recording says: “the gig itself is a bit of an oddity. It might be due to the sound quality but Liz Fraser’s voice sounds much more upfront in the front, and she’s throwing out strange vocal inflections into nearly every line, oversinging almost everything to the point of almost showing off.”