The Intelligencer 20th August 2008

Human League helps keep '80s alive

Ed Condran

The 1980s just won't go away.

Rubik's Cube is a hot seller in England, according to Woolworth's.

Such popular Reagan era fashion as miniskirts, tank tops and colorful headbands are more ubiquitous these days.

And, of course, there is the music. It continues to grow, much like the waistline of aging Americans.

The Regeneration Tour, which features the Human League, Belinda Carlisle, A Flock of Seagulls, ABC and Naked Eyes, is on an arena jaunt, which stops Thursday at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton.

“People love looking back to the '80s,” says Human League singer-songwriter Philip Oakey, while calling from London. “Many people came of age as music fans during that era and it was a terrific time for catchy, fun music.”

The Human League is typical of the groups riding the retro circuit. The synthesizer-driven band, best known for hits such as “Don't You Want Me” and “Fascination,” plays 50 to 80 concerts a year.

“That's enough for us,” says Oakey. “That keeps it fresh for us and it's always good to come back to America.”

Oakey and vocalists Joanna Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley have released nine albums over 28 years. The Human League has sold more than 20 million albums.

Part of the group's appeal is its live show, which borders on cabaret.

“We love to entertain,” says Oakey. “It's not just about playing songs. We're about performing.”

Sharing a stage on a big arena tour is much more appealing to Oakey than club shows.

“It's more fun for us and the fans,” he says. “They get to see a bunch of different artists and so do we. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone that's going out with us. You tend to live an isolated life when you just go out by yourself. It's more fun this way. You can't beat a life of making music and going out there and playing shows from town to town.”

But there is no alternative for Oakey, Catherall and Sulley.

“We never learned to do anything else,” Oakey said. “I don't think we're qualified for other jobs. We've been doing this for so long.”

Oakey formed the band in 1977 and doesn't see the Human League calling it a day any time soon.

“Why should we?” says Oakey. “We have a decent catalog. We love playing the hits and the rest of the songs. The fans still come out. It's as if the '80s never stopped. Fans from that era support us and now the great thing for us is that younger fans, who weren't even born, are embracing the '80s. That'll make sure that this music sticks around for a long time.”