OMD singer talks fame in America, middle age and being back on the road

With O.M.D. back in full swing, singer Andy McCluskey just wants to maintain his dignity

Paul Humphreys, left, and Andy McCluskey, return to Dallas after a triumphant stop at the Granada earlier this year.

With a handful of hits in the ’80s, British pop band Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, or simply OMD, charmed with wispy romantic tunes such as “Dreamin’,” “So in Love” and “Tesla Girls.” Then the John Hughes penned-film Pretty in Pink hit theaters featuring “If You Leave” which put OMD on the map and into A-list territory. By the end of the decade, they dissipated and it’s taken them two decades to get back on the proverbial horse.

“The overall idea of us making another go was that we were alive and kicking and relevant,” singer and co-founder Andy McCluskey says. “It was down to a simple criteria: were we motivated to write music like the way we’re used to expressing or were we motivated because we’re a sad bunch of middle-aged men. We hoped we’re the former and not the latter.”

McCluskey keeps a sharp sense of humor about his sort of comeback position as well as a lackadaisical approach to being on the road. The band quietly released its latest album History of Modern last year and followed up quickly with a tour. But both have received critical acclaim and while the band may not be breaking Gaga records, the veteran band is if figuring out what to do with its resurgence.

That is if there is anything to do with it. When they blew up with “Leave,” the band fell into a trap.  The hit added pressure to their next release as well as practically bankrupting the band paying off people helping them get to the top. With that sudden rush of fame, the band imploded.

More after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Choose between O.M.D at HOB or k.d. Lang at the Meyerson

Decisions, decisions

Whether you’re in the mood for swoony torch songs or synth-pop from the ’80s, tonight is your night. k.d. Lang stops in town with her new band the Siss Boom Bang in support of her latest album Sing it Loud. She’ll likely have you as putty in her hands once her mouth hits the microphone. Or for some flat-out fun pop that will take you back a few decades, hit up Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (or O.M.D.) tonight. The band hit it big with “If You Leave” and “Dreamin’” back in the ’80s and then kinda faded away. But last year, they dropped History of Modern and tour and have been getting raves ever since.

If only you could be in two places at once.

DEETS: k.d. Lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. at 8 p.m. $40–$100. DallasSymphony.com.

O.M.D., House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. at 8 p.m. $25–$45. HouseofBlues.com.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: CSS’ new video ‘Hit Me Like a Rock’

Today, Pitchfork premiered CSS’ newest video “Hit Me Like a Rock,” wherein the band teaches you how to dance. And I know some people who could use this.

This is perfect timing as the band is about to embark on tour again, this time with fellow queer musicians MEN. They were here back in April with Sleigh Bells at the Granada. Now, they come back to House of Blues Oct. 28. Select dates from their tour will feature local drag queens. I wonder if we’ll get to see any of our own on the HOB stage that night.

In the meantime, check out the band’s fun new vid below. You might learn a few moves, too.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: Erasure at House of Blues on Sunday

From AustinTownHall.com

Synth pop legends Erasure put on a healthy show to a sold-out crowd at House of Blues Sunday night with a handful of new songs from their upcoming album, Tomorrow’s World. Flanked by gargoyles and simulated stained glass, Erasure was in fine form as they churned out the hits, but perhaps the star-making turn of the night was by opener Frankmusik.

Erasure frontman Andy Bell still maintains an eccentric stage presence and he’d often strike a pose to the cheers of the audience. His backless vest tied with string was kinda hot over his fit frame and he maintained danceable energy through the setlist. Of course, Vince Clark does his quiet thing hiding behind a massive gargoyle keyboard/desk for his laptop but would occasionally pop out to play the guitar or cut Bell out of his vest to change into a bedazzled Michael Jackson T-shirt.

At times, though, the songs were way too loud and as pleasant as their pop is, the bass and Bell’s voice were simultaneously pounding and screeching. Of course, being doped up on allergy/cold medicine might have affected my perspective, but even Bell himself kept adjusting his levels. When he sang “Love to Hate You,” his vocal runs were rather painful. Through most of the concert, we stood up close, however, as we muddled through the thick crowd toward the back, the sound was much better from afar. Or at least, less throbbing.

The duo never strayed far from the original sounds of their songs, which was refreshing. I hate when veteran artists feel the need to alter their biggest hits to suit them and keep them fresh. Erasure was true to their music and as each classic opened, the audience cheered deafeningly. The band nary missed a hit and new songs fit in like a glove.

The audience, though, was a surprising one. I expected it to look like a Saturday night at Station 4, but instead, the crowd was much more straight than I would have imagined. Baby boomers and twentysomethings seemed to outnumber the gays, but it was still a friendly environment as same-sex couples freely expressed their emotion to each other. And not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Other than Bell’s glorious grandstanding at times, Erasure was reliably good. But Frankmusik, who also produced Tomorrow, killed his 30-plus minute set. The 25 year-old in his rockabilly drag took over the stage as if he was the headliner. More famous as a DJ and producer, he shone with strong vocals and an abundance of energy during his short set of dance music. Some of his mashups were laughable as his song would move into tunes like “Easy Lover” and “You Can Call Me Al.” But he has catchy tunes and his energy was far more amped up than Bell’s. Songs like “No I.D.” and “Ludicrous” show his youth, but his live delivery is something to be witnessed.

—  Rich Lopez

Silver foxes

Over a quarter-century, Erasure has grown from pop wunderkinds to senior statesmen

A LOTTA RESPECT º Andy Bell, left, and Vince Clarke of Erasure have earned their places as music legends and queer icons, but look forward with a refreshed sound and tour that hits Dallas on Sunday.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

…………….

ERASURE
With Frankmusik.
House of Blues, 2301 Flora St. Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. $39–$65.
Sold out. Ticketmaster.com

……………..

There is an almost jaw-dropping effect to the idea that it has been 25 years since the world first heard of Erasure. Andy Bell’s distinctly boyish voice was theatrical with the heartbreak and optimism of youth. Vince Clarke joined Bell as a veteran of Yaz and Depeche Mode, but with Erasure came a sense of ebullience those bands never possessed. Bell and Clarke might be pop music’s most perfect marriage.

As music icons, they have actually relinquished control of their upcoming album, Tomorrow’s World, which drops in October. Interestingly, soon after the group marks its 25th year with its 14th studio album, its producer, Frankmusik, will celebrate his 26th birthday.

“It turns out his mum was a huge fan of ours,” Bell laughs.

Being a contemporary of your producer’s parents is the least of Erasure’s concerns. Bringing Frankmusik on board is both a blur and a blessing to Bell. As a producer, he has worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to Erasure contemporaries Pet Shop Boys, and brings a freshness to Tomorrow’s World that hasn’t been heard in the last decade. Still, the sound is distinctly them.

“Nobody knows quite how it happened, but we had this instinctive feeling about him,” Bell says. “He was championed by our more fanatical fans and they made a really good choice. I don’t know how those straight boys can do it but he’s embraced that synth genre and loves that metrosexual culture.”

When Frankmusik was asked if he was intimidated by working on this album, his appreciation of Erasure is fully relayed.

“No, no. It felt like my calling, it really did. I felt like I needed to make that album — for me and for them,” he told QSyndicate earlier this month.

Both acts are on the road touring together, as if Erasure is somehow passing the pop torch. No need to call this a farewell tour, though: Bell doesn’t feel like they are going away anytime soon.

“You don’t take it for granted at all,” he says. “We’re almost halfway through the American tour, but we are looking forward to the end of this tour, but at the same time we’re loving it. It’s been great fun. It’s a lovely thing to have a great job.”

Erasure has released many gems over the years that have also become signature hits. “Oh L’Amour,” “A Little Respect” and “Chains of Love” are just a sampling of their mark on the industry. But among that huge foundation of songs are some Bell wishes had become bigger hits.

“Sure, you get disappointed when certain ones aren’t played on the radio, but you can’t have that all the time,” he says. “I loved ‘You Surround Me’ and ‘Rock Me Gently’ a lot. Unless we feel strongly about something, then the label chooses. At some point, we have to realize its true worth.”

Erasure comes to the House of Blues Sept. 25 to an already-sold-out venue. Clearly they have not lost their drawing power. Bell says Dallas has always been good to the band despite some of the not-so-approving denizens Texas is sometimes known for.

“We love playing there because we’re have this really great fan base in Dallas and it’s continued over the years,” he says. “I do get fed up with these ‘pray away the gay’ folks who wage warfare on young people. Those closet cases always have their hidden agendas and just take it out on other people.”

After 25 years, it would appear Bell still retains his sass, only now it’s more like a guided missile.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

The Go-Go’s tonight at HOB

They (still) got the beat

Call it nostalgia, call it fun, but all of it’s good. With their iconic infectious ’80s tunes, The Go-Go’s are back (although they said they never went away) and are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their album Beauty and the Beat. That alone is hard to beleive, but they come to town and for a little chunk of tonight, they’ll take the audience on a little “Vacation.” Lesbi-centric rockers Girl in a Coma from San Antonio open the show.

Check out our interview with guitarist Jane Wiedlin here.

DEETS: House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. $40–$75. HouseOfBlues.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Lady Go-Go

Guitar chick Jane Wiedlin and the rest of the Go-Go’s are back — although they claim they were never really gone

SHE’S GOT THE BEAT | Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin stays away from gender labels, but still fights for gay rights.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

……………………

THE GO-GO’S
With Girl in a Coma. House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. $40–$75.
HouseOfBlues.com.

……………………

Nothing makes you feel older than an album from your youth celebrating a milestone anniversary. Nothing! Those defining tunes as you came of age may be timeless, but it’s a reminder that you aren’t.

As the seminal ‘80s band the Go-Go’s celebrates three decades since Beauty and the Beat, time seems to have hardly touched guitarist Jane Wiedlin. With her little girl voice and sassy wit, Wiedlin has kept the same spunk she had when the iconic girl group burst onto the scene.

“In some ways it feels like three years ago and other ways, like 300 years ago,” she says.

Wiedlin wants to make one thing clear: The concert she and her bandmates will give this weekend is not part of a reunion tour — there’s nothing to reunite. Rather, the Go-Go’s just aren’t “a very active band” who have taken “a big chunk of time off.”

Whether or not she’s kidding, the tour has injected the band with a vigor that they’ll put on display Friday at the House of Blues. Dallas thought they might get a nostalgic taste of the band when they were set to perform last year. But Wiedlin unintentionally derailed that.

“It was the day after my birthday and a few of us decided to take a midnight hike up to the top of this hill,” she explains. “We wanted to have this epic light saber battle. But as we walked home, I literally fell right off a cliff. I heard my knees explode; I was rolling through poison oak! I went and found the cliff and I had fallen about 15 feet.”

Such an anecdote reveals several things about Wiedlin: She’s an admitted Star Wars geek, and she’s the adventurous type. She has a limp now, but otherwise, she’s back in the game. The time off gave her some time for introspection — about touring in the early days, the fun the ladies had on the road and the experience of putting those shows together. Even with the ups-and-downs of the band, she thought everyone was having the best time possible — why not again?

“You know, I get sucked into the minutiae of being onstage, but it’s extraordinary,” she says with little gasps. “Our intention is to make this tour the most fun we’ve had in decades, which will make it fun for other people.”

Which seems like a given with such musical faves like “We Got the Beat,” “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels.”  But is new music in sight for the band that never really broke up? Wiedlin and the gang aren’t ruling it out.

“It looks possible to record together, even though we don’t have to have a major label,” she says. “That used to be such a big deal to make music, but now with the web, it’s very DIY. Like getting back to those  ‘70s punk rock days. Charlotte [Caffey] and Kathy [Valentine] just wrote a new song for the band.”

Wiedlin gives the impression that she can’t sit still, whether she’s a star in the comic book Lady Robotica, partaking in her admission that she’s a BDSM perv or acting in indie films, Wiedlin’s voice suggests she may never stop working — whatever the work may be.

“I’m working all the time. I just wrote and directed my first sci-fi movie, The Pyrex Glitch,” she says. “That’s on the film fest circuit. Hopefully people will find it as funny as I do. But we’re all really busy. Belinda [Carlisle] has her jewelry and textile company and Gina [Schock] is been writing songs for Miley Cyrus. Everybody is still so active even though we’re old.”

Wiedlin has discussed her bisexuality, although she prefers to stay away from labels. In an interview with AfterEllen.com, she told the site she’s had sex with both sexes, but that “bisexuality is such a loaded term.” But she loves her gays and as Prop 8 played out in California, she experienced both the joy of gaining equality and the disappointment of marriage privileges being taken away.

“For a few months in the summer of 2008, we got equal rights,” she says. “I wanted to be part of that celebration! But then Prop 8 happened and I’ve been fighting it ever since. I became an ordained minister to marry same-sex couples. I’ll go anywhere to do that so people can be together as they should be. Oh, and as a disclaimer, I’m completely non-religious.”

Her focus is now on the tour and even with her bum knees, she laughs off any obstacle that would keep her from enjoying giving a good show. And while the audience will hear Go-Go’s hits and perhaps even Carlisle’s, don’t be so sure on hearing Wiedlin’s one-hit wonder song “Rush Hour.” The pop confection made a top 10 splash back in 1988. In fact, she’s almost betting on it.

“You know, that song has been a thorn in my side,” she chuckles. “It is so hard to play live because it has like millions of synths in it. I’ve never been able to crack it to make it sound good, but I’d love to hear Belinda sing it.”

We’d go for that.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Singer Wynter Gordon to appear at Union Jack

Up and coming dance diva Wynter Gordon announced an appearance this Saturday at Union Jack for a couple of reasons. This is the final weekend of the store’s 40th Anniversary month, and she’ll be appearing later that night at the House of Blues’ Cambridge Room with Patrick Stump and John West. Clearly a win-win sitch.

The singer, who currently has the single “‘Til Death,” will be signing autographs and CDs of her newest release With the Music I Die. She has a thing for death apparently. You could also win tickets to the show!

She’ll appear at Union Jack, 3920 Cedar Springs Road, from 2–4 p.m.

 

 

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Jane Doe at House of Blues on Saturday

I have to say that I was pretty shocked by the turnout at House of Blues Saturday night for Deborah Vial’s CD release. I knew she had a local following, but one that crowded both the floor and the balcony was beyond me. But the crowd wasn’t just there for her. They were also holding out for the reunion performance of Jane Doe who opened the night for Vial. In fine form, the band rocked and rolled as if 15 years never passed with them apart. Their exuberance stuck with them even after their performance.

“Oh my gosh, being on stage was like tasting the best food ever, bassist Susan Carson said. “It was so great to be up there!”

In this video, drummer Vicci Stewart pretty much kills with her elongated drum solo. Check it.

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets • 08.19.11

Saturday 08.20

Homecoming queenVial
This week’s cover story focuses on the reunion of Jane Doe, but let’s not forget that it’s a big night for Deborah Vial too. The singer returns to Dallas to host the CD release of Stages and Stones. It’s gonna be like a vintage night out at Sue Ellen’s in the ’90s but like huge. Yeah. They’re even playing the big room at HOB.

DEETS: House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St.
7:30 p.m. $10. HouseOfBlues.com.

………………..

Wednesday 08.24

‘Green’ screen
In The Green, Michael and David have the ideal suburban life in Connecticut. But an accusation turns their world around and Michael has to defend himself against suspicious coworkers and even his partner’s doubts. Q Cinema’s Fall Film Series returns with this drama starting Jason Butler Harner and Glee’s Cheyenne Jackson.

DEETS: Four Day Weekend Theater,
312 Houston St., Fort Worth. 8 p.m. $10.
QCinema.org

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Thursday 08.25

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED.

How’s this for a cast party?
WaterTower Theatre hosts a launch party for its WTT Pride series of three shows geared to LGBT theater fans. Theater, dancing, cocktails and disco? Will wonders never cease?

DEETS: Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 9 p.m.
Email GPatterson@WaterTowerTheatre.org or call 972-450-6227.

 

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition
August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas