attempt to relive the quest for Romantic nostalgia, Human League performed
to Nottingham's 80s sound advocates at Rock City.
Through sublime pop contributions Don't You Want Me Baby and Open Your Heart
the band (who never struck me as an overly talented ensemble) did not fail
to excite their crowd. Ageing yuppies and post-electro buffs fiercely
recited renditions of old classics which triggered the band's huge
recognition in the world of electro-pop. The atmosphere was very intense.
With debatable yet credible 'basic' vocals and a simplistic sound so true to
the eighties, Human League are a band who you cannot help but warm to.
Their performance was light-hearted, unassuming and enjoyable. They
admirably maintained their energy and delivered a credible take on what
feels like uncomplicated music and effortless drama.
Their sound is intentionally electronic and, although at times their vocals
appear ropey, the band's performance emphasised and recapped on their
massive contribution to eighties pop.
Their songs are catchy and danceable and take you on the evocative journey
that is eighties chic.
‘Come On Spandau!’, cheers a man with a receding hair-line, only to have the
self-satisfaction of his gag quashed by his governing missus. Next to him a
stout, overweight extra from a battle scene in Lord Of The Rings claps out
of time. Middle-aged women wear their hair in bunches like they used to
‘back in the day’ and show off far more dilapidated skin than they can
probably get away with. No one is under thirty-five.
So this is it, welcome to The Human League 2005 Synth City Tour! The polite
chit-chat, group laughter and beckoning waves from here to there prior to
the main performance may be more akin to a PTA meeting than a gig, but the
hectatious dancing that ensues when the band take the stage is more
reminiscent of the crazy scenes at an End Of Term Parent’s Disco!
Opening with ‘Tell Me When’, the 90’s comeback single that ushered in a
second generation of League fans makes for a joyous start, instantly
cranking the nostalgia dials up to eleven. The crowd let out a passable roar
of appreciation, followed by a collective wheeze, as if we’re sitting in the
lung of an asthma sufferer. They may not have the stamina of yore, but
they’re still loving it.
Long-gone is lead singer Phil Oakey’s trademark half-a-haircut, these days
opting for a rubbery skin-head, his face as if encased in a thick plastic
lacquer, like an animated shop mannequin. Co-vocalist Susan Sulley is doing
alright, challenging the theory that getting old means getting fat and saggy,
standing so tall and slender that if she’d been any thinner when she were
younger she’d have probably been little more than a walking cotton-bud. Poor
old Joanne Catherall on the other hand, looks less like Joanna Catherall,
more like Joanna Catherall as performed by Mrs. Meryl Jones, 52, Bagshot, on
a particularly bad episode of Stars In Their Eyes and, oh my, ever so bored!
When the Human League are good, they’re incredible – witness classic-album
Dare’s opener ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’ pound through the
speakers and into the minds of the awe-inspired onlookers, who in the
instance are probably taken right back to 1981 and the first time they’d
ever heard it. Then there’s ‘The Lebanon’ and ‘Love Action’, which when
performed against the Tron-like, electric bolt backdrop, pitches the mood so
far back in decades forlorn that it’s almost sad that time ever had to move
on after them.
‘Don’t You Want Me’ is received with the predictable uproar associated with
a timeless smash-hit single, but it’s for set-closer ‘Electric Dreams’ that
the highest reverence must stand for it being the epitome of great 80’s pop.
In between these moments of greatness sits awkward filler that doesn’t cater
to the nature of reminiscence, and it’s probably because of this that the
band are playing relatively small venues these days, whilst 80’s
counterparts Duran Duran & Depeche Mode can still sell out massive arena
Still, without The Human League we wouldn’t have The Killers or The Bravery
(is that a bad thing?) or indeed any significant electro-pop at all. Their
live show may have slipped down a gear as the glory days sink ever further
into the past, but for their contribution to popular music and it’s legacy
hereon we shall forever be in debt to them.