Revisiting The Human League

I have to confess that I am a fully paid up member of the 80’s synthpop fan club. Admittedly the genre lacked credibility, the fashion suffered from a deficit of taste and the lyrics often failed to deliver any meaningful comment but I completely subscribe to the notion that there are few things in life that lift the spirits so effectively as a damn good tune! Furthermore the melodies were delivered with such joy and panache that it was hard to resist their charm and it still is! In the catalogue of heroically good songs delivered with belief and style it is hard to top the contribution of The Human League.

Not a Fan

I have to say I was not a great fan of the group back in the 80’s as my taste was more for the harsher and darker work of Soft Cell and A Flock Of Seagulls but over the years I have acquired a new found admiration for the music of the Human League. During their heyday I didn’t even bother to attend any of their gigs despite virtually living in my local venues but I have now had the honour of correcting what was undoubtedly an unfortunate oversight. This week I had the pleasure of attending their gig at the Royal Albert Hall and the experience certainly did not disappoint.

The Gig

It was slightly disconcerting to arrive at the Royal Albert Hall to be greeted by thousands of reminders of my advancing years. There were few youngsters in attendance with the venue largely being populated by the over 45’s. I asked myself why there were so many old people around but then realised that I was actually one of them! It seems ridiculous that the band I was about to watch were formed 35 years ago, where did the time go? Happily when they arrived on stage Phil Oakey, Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall all looked and performed as if it all started yesterday which is more than could be said for the audience! The trio all looked stylish, surprisingly youthful and totally at home on the stage, with the possible exception of the spectacular pair of shoes worn by Sulley following the first of several costume changes. These looked amazing but appeared to create some issue on the balancing front!

The Hits

The concert was a polished and joyful journey through the group’s back catalogue. The songs from their 2011 album “credo” stood up well against the hits of their heyday and the gig was crowned by a big finish with rousing renditions of Love Action, Fascination and Mirror Man. Naturally the encore featured Don’t You Want Me and the whole thing was topped off appropriately with Electric Dreams. The inclusion of The Lebanon was a useful reminder that electropop is capable of making a serious political comment as well as a good tune. The delivery throughout was professional with any signs of going through the motions refreshingly absent. These are people who clearly love what they do and have no intention of changing a winning formula and thank goodness because there is little to improve. The simplicity of the music and the performance could not have been enhanced by fancy sets, special effects or the addition of an orchestra. The keyboards, drums and vocals did it all by themselves! The audience loved it and I rather enjoyed my trip down memory lane, making a solemn vow to do it all over again!

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Sally writes regulalry for Westmount Music and has a keen interest in the sounds of the 80’s