Setlist Insider: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) have a long, storied history as a band, so to say we were excited when they accepted our invite to stop by the studios would be an understatement. Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys told so many great stories, starting with their first show in 1979. They talk about being misfits of the punk scene, the incredible experience of playing with an orchestra and how their cinematic hit "If You Leave" was written in two days. Watch, and enjoy:

Early shows

Andy: The first time would be '79 with Gary Numan. Is it in there?
Paul: Yeah, let's just see.
Andy: Have they got it right?
Paul: '79.
Andy: Yes, they have. Now do they have a setlist?
Paul: Oh yeah, oh my.
Andy: Oh wow.
Paul: This is what we played.
Andy: We played that song first and we didn't get booed off stage? "I Betray my Friends"?
Paul: Now, that was brave.

Andy: Oh, November the 23rd. I have handmade posters that I made.
Paul: Yeah, he designed.
Andy: Which has 23rd of November on it. I think that was the second gig we ever played at Eric's.
Paul: Yeah, Eric's was the sort of punk club of Liverpool.
Andy: Don't call it a punk club. It wasn't punk club.
Paul: Well it wasn't a punk club, no.
Andy: All of the misfits, the oddballs, the outcasts. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Echo & the Bunnymen,
Both: Teardrop Explodes.
Andy: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Flock of Seagulls. All the crazy names that came out of Liverpool. That was quite a day, and it would've been this set plus probably "Messages" that we got our seven-album contract with.

“If You Leave”

Paul: "If You Leave", I mean we got so lucky with that song.
Andy: In fact, we had another song that was written for the movie and John Hughes was like, “Oh, can you, uh, can you write me another song? We've changed the end of the movie and your lyrics don't work."
Paul: And you're like, "You're kidding me. We've got a tour starting in two days’ time. You want us to write a whole new song for the movie?" Yeah, I think it's actually the only song we've ever written where I've been hammering out chords on a piano and Andy's scribbling down words and trying to work out the vocals together.
Andy: Maybe we should do it again. We might have another hit in the States.
"If You Leave" scene in 1986 movie Pretty In Pink

With an orchestra

Paul: When we got back together for the second time, we said, "Let's make our mantra to do things we've never done before." And you know, on our sort of bucket list was to play with an orchestra.
Andy: This with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. This was the first time we'd worked with an orchestra that wasn't mixed by a rock & roll monitor engineer. And what you realize about anything to do with rock or pop music is it's compressed to hell. It's a letterbox. It's either loud or really loud, but a real orchestra doesn't have compression.
Paul: And the dynamics of it is just incredible really.
Andy: They created all of these harmonies and counter-rhythm harmonies and things that make it for a full orchestra.
Andy: You have to remember we are self-taught. Standing in front of 70 people who'd sweat blood to learn how to play their instruments really well, we felt like total bloody charlatans. Actually they were lovely 'cause so many of the people actually said, "God, this is so much more fun than playing bloody Brahms." It was back again in October of 2018 with the RLPO. Let's see what the setlist was then.
Paul: Oh we did "Ghost Star".
Andy: We went to town here. We got a little bit more confident. The people who came to the first one came from all over the world to see something new. So we thought, "They're gonna want the weird," what we call "the weird shit." We did "The View From Here"
Paul: And "The Daughter of the "Minotaur".
Andy: "The Avenue", "The Daughter of the Minotaur"
Paul: This is a great setlist actually.

Most Played

Andy: Architecture & Morality.
Paul: Played the most. We always play "Souvenir", "Joan of Arc", "Maid of Orleans". But we also-
Andy: Which we describe as the Holy Trinity.

Set length

Paul: I mean, we have a set amount of time that we wanna play. I mean we're not one of these bands that like to play for three hours, you know.
Andy: What is that? Three fricking hours?
Paul: Yeah, there's a lot of "have to plays" 'cause people really will be throwing things.
Andy: That's a nice problem to have, isn't it?
Paul: Yeah, we like to do a deep dive and play one or two really obscure things that our hardcore fans would not be expecting to hear and you know, shriek with delight when we play it.
Andy: One of the songs that we started playing was "Almost" which was the B side of "Electricity".

Bauhaus Staircase

Paul: With the Bauhaus Staircase there's certain songs that will fit seamlessly into our set and you know, people won't go to the bar or the toilet when we play them.
Andy: I will. Can you do some that are instrumental?
Paul: You have to take the mic with you to the toilet.
Andy: That could be interesting.
Catch OMD on the nearly all sold out Bauhaus Staircase tour now. Check dates and details here.Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
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