Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark (OMD)/Villa Nah

Hammersmith Apollo, London - 7 November 2010

"New Babies: New Toys"

So here's another band I thought I'd never get to see, let alone three times, having been only six years old when Souvenir came crackling through the radio (or should that be wireless?). But tonight is different. Even those that are here for a bit of nostalgia find themselves mildly unsettled by the prospect of an all new OMD album (History of Modern), their first in 14 years.

We begin proceedings with Villa Nah, an excellent band with a terrible name. Having had no prior knowledge of them, it appears that their villa lies somewhere in Finland. Nevertheless, the duo were hugely entertaining, coming armed as they did with a set of very catchy, and perfectly understated electronic pop songs. Enormous credit too for their Finnish version of the Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls, which sent genuine ripples of excitement through the attentive crowd during its long string intro as one by one, everyone realised what was about to ensue.

OMD themselves couldn't have announced their return with more irony than opening with urgent New Babies: New Toys, the lead track from History of Modern. In blasts Andy McCluskey's blue bass guitar, booming drums and those insidious synth riffs... one after another. The band seemed genuinely energised by the electric atmosphere, more of the audience rising to their feet and windmill dancing with each successive song. They were certainly helped by an energetic, if conventional set list, which drew heavily on the hits (all welcome, with the exception of the awful Pandora's Box) when not plugging the finest moments from the new album.

The excellent atmosphere was also boosted by an excellent lightshow consisting of a series of large light panels that moved around the stage, and excellent sound, helped by the fact that Malcolm Holmes was using a real kit rather than relying on horribly clunky syndrums as he had done on recent tours. Highlights (old) included the pure pop of Forever Live and Die and the edgy Bunker Soldiers, but they were matched by the new material, in particular the addictive History of Modern part one and atmospheric New Holy Ground.

Gripes, if there were any, would be that the set seemed to fall a little short, the first single from History (If You Want It) being inexplicably absent (Andy did announce that they were experiencing some technical difficulties, which although inaudible, may have contributed). Also, as the only OMD fan that believes Organisation is a far better album than Architecture and Morality, 1 song from the former (can you guess which?) and 4 from the latter does not seem a fair fight. Other than that, there really was very little to fault about a what was faultless and genuinely memorable show. All the more surprising then that Andy announced that the gig would be their last for several years. Everyone drew a sharp intake of breath. Still, as the saying goes, go on secondment and leave everyone desperate for more while you're ahead. 9/10

Erik Stein