ANAHEIM 2003 REVIEWS

 

www.tidalwavemagazine.com 2003

Dan MacIntosh ANAHEIM, CA – Philip Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley, respectively—took the stage dressed in dark clothing and complementarity dark glasses. But approximately an hour and a half later, the solemn entourage ended their show by wildly dancing to “Together In Electric Dreams.” In the time between these two behavioral/emotional extremes, Oakey restlessly roamed the stage and sang with an end-of-17-date-tour scratchy voice, while Catherall and Sulley flanked him by looking consistently bored and slut-y – as expected. The Human League is not as Gothic as it tried to appear at the beginning of the night, nor is it as happy-go-lucky as it seemed to be at the end of the evening. Instead, it is something in between, and perhaps that’s what still makes it an attractive live act – even after all these years. It either brings an edge to its pop, or pop to its edge, depending upon how you choose to look at it.

This group has been alternately praised and blamed for jumpstarting the synth-pop movement of the ‘80s. As Oakey has oft stated, the band originally aimed for something somewhere between chilly Kraftwerk, and hot Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” But you don’t have to be a techno-head to appreciate what the League has given to the pop world, because underneath all its electronic gizmos, exists one fine pop band.

Although the group opened with a series of obscure and steely numbers (ones only hardcore fans likely recognized), and got a little bogged down in politics along the way with “The Lebanon” and “Heart Like A Wheel,” it didn’t take long before the hit single “Human” came along in the set list. This moving ballad is nothing, if not a morality tale about trying to make excuses for adultery. It was also the one lone moment when Sulley took the vocal spotlight for a spoken word female perspective on the song’s subject matter. Sulley, by the way, was/is the most overtly sexualized female onstage.  Indeed, she many times (too many times?) exposed her slightly oversized mid-riff. Catherall also took a turn singing lead on “One Man In My Heart,” which featured an actual acoustic guitar played by the band’s Gothic-looking guitarist/keyboardist.  

Oakey is the ringmaster of this neon circus, however, and it was his energy that always kept the show moving right along. It was