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Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00


O2 Academy, Leeds
by Susan Darlington

Some bands spend a lifetime obsessing over authenticity. OMD frontman Andy McCluskey, on the other hand, happily shrugs his shoulders and admits that the synth-pop pioneers "sold out and made shitloads of money" with If You Leave.

The track - the Wirral quartet's breakthrough hit in the US - might not be the strongest of the set but the audience respond with unadulterated enthusiasm.

It's a reaction that uncommonly extends to material from their latest album English Electric, with Dresden and Metroland sticking firmly to their tried and tested formula.

Buoyed aloft by a sea of nostalgia, it's nonetheless a blueprint that sounds remarkably contemporary. Numbers such as Telsa Girls, Joan Of Arc and Locomotion speed along on a wave of tinny synth and jittery rhythms that makes it clear why they've been cited as an influence by the likes of LCD Sound System and The xx.

The oddness of the songs, with their geeky references to Catholicism and outer space, is encapsulated in new number Our System. It's OMD's take on the passage of the Voyager 1 spacecraft outside our solar system and is matched by simple but effective colour-block projections.

Playing in Leeds for the first time in three decades, the original line-up of McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes bring an infectious enjoyment to the show. Urging the audience to put on their dancing shoes for a string of hits that span their 35-year career, the sprightly McCluskey leads by example when not playing bass.

He speculates on an alternative history if he hadn't given up the chance to study fine art in Leeds, before the band close the 90-minute set with their "oldest and fastest track" Electricity.

It's clear from this that McCluskey made the right decision. While OMD might have sacrificed their cool, they certainly know how to put on an entertaining show.

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