Barenaked Ladies, O.M.D., Howard Jones – Maine State Pier, Portland, Maine, June 24th, 2016

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As we all know, in the 60’s the first British musical invasion hit, and if we think about it there were many more to follow that laid down the core of British hard rock as well as heavy metal with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Not to be outdone, we also benefited by the synthpop invasion that included Howard Jones and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. And as many of us will remember, much of this music came out at the height of MTV, and along with the catchy tracks, came videos, a new idea that propelled these acts to big heights in the 80s.

Howard was the first band to take the stage this night. Well, let me tell you the whole story… The show was slated to start at 7:00 p.m., but as I was parking my car at 6:00 p.m. I heard live music. I made my way down to the pier and was disappointed to see I was already missing his set. Luckily I was quick on my feet and saw a bit of the show. Howard played a great set, full of his many hits. I felt a bit bad for him since due to the early start I was not the only one late for the show. People were just making their way in and finding their seats as Howard was playing, but like the pro he is, he plugged through the set, trying to make light of the raw hand he had been dealt. To make matters worse, during his last song his keyboard stopped working and when the tech came on to help, Howard, in not so many words, told him not to bother and the song and set ended early. Howard deserved more recognition than the luke warm welcome he got.

Next up was O.M.D. – Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. O.M.D, another band that came up in the mid-eighties got a huge start in the States because of songs they had in movie soundtracks. The first, in 1984’s Weird Science with “Tesla Girls,” and the following year with the huge smash, “If You Leave” from Pretty In Pink.

O.M.D. got a good response from the now near full venue and did a great set. Photography-wise it was a bit boring to shoot, as there was only front man Andy McCluskey moving around in the first ten feet of the stage while the other guys, two keyboardists and drummer, stayed in the back. One of these keyboardists, Paul Humphreys, is a founding member, along with McCluskey. The other keyboardist, and sax player, Martin Cooper, might as well be an original as he joined the band two years after the band’s start and was there through the hits. Another thing that made them a bit boring to shoot was that the entire band was wearing black. I mentioned this to a fellow photographer, and the reason was quickly addressed by McCluskey, who said, “The reason we are all in black, is that we are in mourning, as our country just lost the vote, and now we don’t know what kind of home we are going to go home to, or in fact if they will let us come home.” The vote he spoke of was the decision to separate Britain from the EU, aka Brexit, a monumental moment of global implications.

O.M.D., like Jones before them, played a solid set, which of course included their hits. The crowd really came alive when they played, “If You Leave,” bringing many to their feet and dancing commenced, even young children joined in. Toward the end of the O.M.D. set, the Barenaked Ladies came on stage with a birthday cake in hand, and with some help from Howard Jones and the audience, everyone sang Happy Birthday to McCluskey who turned 57 on this day.

Last up were Barenaked Ladies.

We were allowed to photograph the first three songs, and the band members were all right up front on the stage with a false wall behind them, blocking our view of the stage behind. The show started strong, and the band was quite funny, as you might expect, and seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage. I mention this as photography-wise it doesn’t really read to be as entertaining as it was since they pretty much stood in place with acoustic guitars. Believe me, it was fun.

After the fifth song, the stage opened up to reveal the full-sized drum kit, a piano for Hearn, electric guitars and a whole lotta lights. The band played most of their hits and also did a huge medley, which included a Prince and Bowie song. They finished the night with covers by The Ramones, Led Zeppelin and The Violent Femmes.

Notably, Barenaked Ladies brought Howard Jones back out on stage mid-show and together they played his hit, “No One Is To Blame,” which he had played earlier to a near empty crowd. This time the crowd loved it, and it was nice to see the smile on his face when the well-deserved applause came. So for all the little issues, everything eventually came together, and a great show was enjoyed by all.

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