When Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark returned in 2010 with History of Modern, the band reignited a career that has remained strangely under appreciated by mainstream fans of 80s synth-pop. The band’s balance of art and commerce has occasionally danced too far in one direction (Dazzle Ships) or the other (Crush) but the albums that strike the right balance, such as 1981’s Architecture & Morality, are essential to the genre. Their last two albums, English Electric (2013) and The Punishment of Luxury (2017), are stunning works of pop from the packaging to the songs. In fact, they might be the band’s two strongest albums from start to finish. And then there is 1991’s Sugar Tax. Somewhat lost between their imperial phase of 80s hit singles and their glorious return, Sugar Tax has faded from memory.
After ten hard-fought years in the music industry, The Joy Formidable are fearless. Stripping back to an unplugged trio for their current tour, the band turned down the cacophonous wave of soaring guitar riffs and sledgehammer drumming that has made them a favourite of Dave Grohl and treated a lucky few to a master class in songwriting and stage banter. Pulling songs from all four studio albums, the band displayed finesse and humor throughout the evening.