It Only Took 30 Years: OMD in Concert


I suspect I fell under OMD’s spell in 1987 when I was a sophomore in high school. Fast forward to early April 2018 and I FINALLY got to see them perform live at Emos in Austin!

I arrived 90 minutes before doors opened and snagged a front row spot far to the left. I attended the gig solo, but providence lent a hand: I ended up being wedged in between two guys who were long-time fans as well.

One had driven in from Houston just for the gig. The other had brought his adorable, mop-headed 7 year old with him. His son was perfectly behaved and a BIG fan! His dad was a trained photographer and avid fan as well.

Collaborative effort between me and my new photographer OMD-loving concert buddy (Scott Schulz)!

I attempted to take a picture of the OMD equipment before the show started but my camera couldn’t capture the shot as well as I wanted. Fate lent a hand and my new photography buddy, Scott Schulz, took the shot for me. I complimented his execution and he called me the “art director,” admitting it was a cool shot that he would have missed.

The opening act was entertaining and a talented bunch, but we were ready for OMD!

Thanks, Scott Schulz, for the cool shot — yes, that’s the back of my head to the right!

I knew the guys still sounded good because I had done my “YouTube homework,” but I was taken by three things:

(1) Just how well the music holds up. The instrumentation was outstanding! (Even the familiar “If You Leave” felt fresh and interesting.)

There were lots of dudes in the audience. I had (incorrectly) assumed that there would be a fair amount of middle-aged chicks seeing their alternative 80s band crushes. Instead, I realized that the electronic innovativeness of the OMD lads fascinated quite a few guys.

I’m still a softy for that mid-80s sax and iconic melody performed on the keyboard!

(2) Andy sounded slightly throatier, but hit virtually every note with accuracy and enthusiasm. His energy was astounding. He performed an aerobic 2-hour marathon, vocally and physically.

He moved in such a distinct, unusual, and commanding manner. His dancing alternated between stiff, precise movements to rock star leaps atop speakers.

Unlike some of his aging peers, he was not simply going through the motions. He was SO present!

Credit: Scott Schulz

(3) Hearing the drumming live was a game-changer for me. Although there are far bigger OMD fans than I, I am no casual admirer. I’ve listened to A LOT of their music. It was not until I heard them live that I could appreciate the impact of the drumming.

I associate OMD with keyboards. Now I know that the strong drumming plays a more important role in my appreciation of their music than I would have ever guessed. Stuart Kershaw was fantastic!

See? Admittedly, I’m partial to Sugar Tax, but I think this live performance of “Sailing on the Seven Seas” sounds stellar. The drumming elevates the entire song!

At the end of the show, my new Houston buddy, William, asked me what my favorite tune was from the show. It was difficult to choose, but I responded that it was the one-two punch of “Maid of Orleans” followed by “Joan of Arc.”

Oh, this is special! This Proms performance of “Maid of Orleans” is peppier and more regal than the studio cut (and live performance that I saw last Friday), but the exuberance is spell-binding. There’s a precision to the music, the instrumentation is intentionally clipped, and yet it soars at the same time. What an achievement!

Throwing it back to 1981! This video of “Joan of Arc” captures Andy’s stamina, stage presence, and intensity as well as the unique beauty of this eery-turns-gorgeous long-time favorite of mine.

It’s been wonderful to re-visit Friday night’s show while it’s fresh on my mind. I’m so glad I got there early — I was only 10 feet away from Andy throughout the show! And my fellow OMD-loving buddies were the perfect unexpected “friends” to hang out with during this MUCH anticipated show!

The whole band! Credit: Scott Schulz

I have (at least) one more story planned for OMD. I am determined to highlight the under-appreciated Sugar Tax more closely. I’m saving that for another day, though.

In the meantime, if you are an OMD fan and missed this story from last fall, please check out: OMD: My Sister’s Birthday Dedication, the 80s, and Unlikely Boy Bands.

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