Wednesday, 8 May 2013

OMD with John Foxx and the Maths

Through a bizarre series of events, I unexpectedly found myself on the train with author Stephen Roper travelling from my home city of Norwich to the Suffolk town of Ipswich to see Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark supported by my current favourites, John Foxx and the Maths in concert at the Regent Theatre.

Of note is that Stephen wrote a highly interesting book called "Backstage" which cover the career of Gary Numan from 1979 to 1981, it's well worth a read and contains interviews with various people who were connected with Numan at that time including John Foxx and Andy McCluskey. I was fortunate enough to get my copy signed by John, Andy and the other half of OMD, Paul Humphries. I 'm considering making it something of a mission to get the book signed by all the people that were interviewed in it.
Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Stephen and I arrived in Ipswich after a very enjoyable train journey, augmented by a bottle of a rather pleasant Pino Grigio wine, and made our way via taxi (the friendly driver was playing Kenny Ball on his CD player and that's NEVER a bad thing) to the Regent Theatre. During the taxi ride, we reminisced about the days when it was called the Ipswich Gaumont and all the bands we had seen there. Upon our arrival, we immediately made our way around the back of the venue because Stephen had arranged with OMD's Andy McCluskey to sign some copies of his book prior to the show, which involved two tickets for the show as well as access all areas passes. Okay, between the two of us, Stephen and I managed to turn this into a minor fiasco as we went to the wrong part of the building, leaving a very poorly Andy McCluskey waiting for us. After a couple of texts and a quick phone call, we got our bearings and found the entrance we should have gone to in the first place. There we were greeted by a security man who I would not want to argue with and we were taken through to see Andy. Despite being quite obviously unwell, he willingly signed the books (I took total advantage of the situation and got my copy signed as well - well why not?) and we talked briefly. Then, he went and brought through none other than John Foxx!!! Followers of my blog will know that Mr. Foxx is perhaps my favourite artist and to meet him again was quite a thrill. He was very charming, warm and friendly and we spoke for a few minutes about this and that, not least would he ever perform in Norwich again. Naturally, I got him to sign my copy of "Back Stage". I now look forward to the John Foxx and the Maths gig in Brighton on the 7th June 2013, where they will be supported by Vile Electrodes (who are supporting OMD in Germany this month!!!) and I will have a photo pass ;-)
We then made our way to the front of house to meet up with people I had previously met at a Gary Numan gig and also with the legendary Finnish man-about-Europe, Tapio Normall, before heading into the regent for the John Foxx and the Maths set. It was as good as expected. Powerful, current and an excellent performance. For me and my personal biases, I was wondering how OMD could be any better than this. When I first saw Foxxy and the Maths back in 2011, they were a four-piece, but now they comprise John Foxx (obviously), Ben "Benge" Edwards on electronic percussion and the rather gorgeous Hannah Peel on keyboards and violin. Every song was just right and a good balance between old and new material. Like I said, I'm biased, so for me it was always going to be good.
And then after a short break, it was time for OMD.
Now, I like OMD's music, but I would never describe myself as a big fan. Also, I'd never seen them live before this night. They were amazing. They were brilliant. I am now a fan. I was concerned for Andy McCluskey because when we met with him before the evening started, he was not well and he did not look well at all. You'd never know it was the same man. He's 6 years older than me and I tell you now, I wish I had a tenth of his energy!!! The set looked great, the band were well turned out and sound was pristine. the lighting was awesome and the performances were amongst the best I have ever seen from any band, new or old. OMD like to play their old stuff as well as their new and those songs felt as fresh that night as the first time I heard back in my dim and distant youth. Andy McCluskey is a proper showman, his "dancing" was entertaining (he often described it as "beautiful"), his connecting with the audience was spot on and his overall performance was outstanding. Paul Humphreys was the same, he doesn't have the "moves" and has something of a quieter manner in contrast to Andy's outgoing persona, but when he took centre stage for tracks like "Souvenir" and "(Forever) Live and Die", he mesmerised the audience and the roof nearly took off at the end of each song. They played the favourites such as "Messages", "Enola Gay", "Joan of Arc", "Maid of Orleans" and "Talking Loud and Clear", finishing up with the song that started it all for them, "Electricity". It was over all too quickly. From start to finish, it was pure, class performance and I can't rate them highly enough.

But it didn't end there. No. After a few minutes, we were taken back stage whereupon we met up again with Andy (who was looking much better) and also Paul Humphreys, with whom I enjoyed an interesting chat about music gear, which Paul seemed very enthusiastic about. After a short while, we said our goodbyes and Stephen and I were back on the train returning to Norwich.
It was a great evening all round. John Foxx and the Maths were simply excellent and it was a real pleasure to meet and chat with John Foxx. OMD were simply stunning, genuinely pleasant people to talk to and I am a convert. The two acts out-performed, in one evening, everyone I've ever seen live, before, during and after the main events, and that isn't something I say lightly. When you consider their statuses as pioneers of modern electronic music, and their respective achievements, it was so cool that they had time for Stephen and I, were interested in what we had to say and had no aloofness about them at all. The people impressed as much as the music and the performance. I wish I could say that about many others.
The morning after, I can tell you that I hit Amazon and downloaded some of the OMD albums that I didn't have.

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