“It’s great to be back, it’s been a long time” said OMD singer Andy McCluskey to the crowd at Mandela Hall. He wasn’t wrong. It had been 8 years since they were last in Belfast, supporting Simple Minds at The Odyssey. You have to go back to 1991 (Ulster Hall) for their last headline concert in Belfast, referenced by McCluskey during the set. Paul Humphries didn’t remember that gig, possibly because he had left the band by that stage.
I love Simple Minds and OMD. To be honest, I have no clue why I didn’t go to that Odyssey gig. I genuinely can’t think why. What a wasted opportunity.
It is the pester power of Northern Ireland fans that brought them back to Belfast, as McCluskey recently stated in an interview with Sunday Life.
For me, it began with a sick day off school in 1996.
I flicked through the channels and spotted something on the music channels (There were only two back then, it was VH1)
It was a cheery, happy, Britpop song called Walking On The Milky Way by a band called OMD. I loved it. Little did I know it was different, very different from the rest of their back catalogue.
I did know, not to confused them with OMC, who were in the charts around the same time. How bizarre.
A while later, I heard Enola Gay on a radio station. I knew I liked two OMD songs. I only knew two OMD songs.
By 2002, I had recently joined the Music Library at Belfast Central Library. I decided to be curious and borrow The OMD Singles, a 1998 Greatest Hits compilation.
I was not to be disappointed. Not once was the skip button pressed. It became one of my favourite albums.
At this point, Andy McCluskey was enjoying chart success, including the number 1s that eluded OMD in his new role as Songwriter for Atomic Kitten.
OMD would later reform and tour, but there was to be no Belfast gig, until now.
When I arrived at the venue, I wasn’t really in the mood for it. I was tired, had a sore head, and was drenched due to walking from Belfast City Hospital. The reason why I was parked there because people in Elmwood Avenue found parking one car in one parking bay to be too much fucking effort.
Forget about The Punishment Of Luxury, this was The Punishment Of Idiot Drivers.
The band appeared on stage, with Andy doing his trademark Dad Dancing. At 58, he is of peak Dad Dancing age. His best Dad Dancing years are still ahead of him. In truth, he has been dad dancing since his early 20s.
I googled his name for this article just to make sure if was McCluskey rather than McCloskey. The first suggestion was “Andy McCluskey Dancing”
Two songs in, he grabbed his Bass, proceeding to play it like Brian May rather than John Deacon.
To keep up with the Queen theme, we even had the fans doing a Radio Ga Ga style clapping in unison during Locomotion.
McCluskey then asked the crowd if they had their dancing shoes on. He certainly had. The answer was a resounding yes.
He was putting his life in his hands dancing on stage, saying that the stage was sticky due to years of cheap university beer. Ahhh, the (in)famous Mandela Hall sticky floor. I’d forgotten about it until he mentioned it. It wasn’t too bad where I was. You don’t think they’ve got round to finally cleaning it?
I wasn’t sure if I was an a Pop Concert or an Aerobics Class. Either way, it was brilliant.
Nevermind Aerobics Oz Style, this was Arobics OMD Style. I might pitch that to Sky Sports as a TV show idea.
If Joan Of Arc had a heart, it probably would have been racing from all the dancing.
Paul and Andy then had an onstage argument, sort of. It was staged as Paul, dripping of sweat, complained about standing under the lights, and that Andy’s job was a “Piece of cake”, so Andy invited him out to sing, which he did, performing Forever Live And Die.
While doing so, he was hit by a bra thrown from the crowd, but carried on like a pro, adding that the bra wasn’t his size.
Fans arriving were given a chance to vote for a song to appear on the setlist on a poll via the website, with a magic password for this at the venue.
The choices were The New Stone Age and Generic Engineering.
Genetic Engineering won with 75% of the vote.
Andy introduced this by saying that people had voted wisely, unlike a couple of Junes ago when they voted for Trump.
I think he’s got Brexit and Trump a bit confused there.
There were a lot of hits played – Messages, Locomotion, Souvenir, Tesla Girls, Joan Of Arc, Maid Of Orleans, So In Love, Forever Live And Die, Enola Gay and Sailing On The Seven Seas.
We also got to hear new song The Punishment Of Luxury, the excellent title track to their new album.
I would have loved it if they played If You Leave, If You Want It or Dreaming, but that is being greedy.
During the encore, they played the song that started it all for me, Walking On The Milky Way, with a slight change in arrangement.
They could just about fit four people on stage, they were hardly going to fit an orchestra as well.
As they left the stage, they said they won’t leave it so long before returning to Belfast. If they don’t return before 2043, we’ll be demanding answers.
In 2043, Andy McCluskey will be 84 years old. He’ll probably still be energetically dancing around on stage.
In the words of If You Leave, promise me, just one more night.