COPENHAGEN 2007 REVIEWS
They were declared dead, finished, one hit wonders and even non musical, but on tuesday night a slim, closeshaven and happy Phil Oakey fronted the band that refuses to give up and demonstrated that the wave haven't faded out yet.
And just like in the eigthies he had a brunette under one arm and a blonde under the other. Both with high haircuts and in good spirits - and it's still the same two as it was 25 years ago - namely Joanne Catherell and Susanne Sulley.
Dressed in black leathergloves, small dark glasses and with a big goldchain round his neck, Oakey kicked of the show with "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of". And it fired up the mainly masculine crowd, clapping in sync with the two dancing, feminine powderpuffs, each on their sideline.
"Dare!" is the album with The Human League. They played every track. In the same order as the album. Followd by a string of their other hits. And this was the first time in Copenhagen that the whole of Dare! was played.
Phil Oakey loves Copenhagen and is in a good mood. With his characteristic staccato movements he runs around on stage, even so much that during Love Action (I Believe In Love) he falls, as a nail has worked it's way through the floor.
So all those who had sharpened the eyeliner and came for pure 80s nostalgia and wanted to get their ears full of one of synth-pop's biggest masterpeices, had a great night.
Nobody sounds like The Human League and that is their secret. Nobody has a voice anywhere reminescent of Oakey's, which is both deadpan but also very alive in details, all at once. And there's no wear and tear on that account.
"Don't You Want Me" immortality though has worn down Oakey, who delivered a shamefully short version of the track, that is there undisputed pop hit - and they even played it without the genious and potent party-middle section, which with garanti would have send the whole of Vega into heavenly dancing.
Oakey never liked "Don't You Want Me", which today, ironically, is the most
important piece of his retirement pension. He has called it "Dare"s weakest
Oakey did redeem himself and with the crowd suggestion it, he ended the concert with "Together In Electric Dreams". Which he, together with his idol, Giorgio Moroder, had a hit with in 1984 This way a great night in Vega both started and ended with a song about dreams....
www.geiger.dk December 2007
It was in many ways a history lesson at Store Vega, where The Human League from England stopped by on a cold tuesday night in December. Not only are Human League most certainly a name that you first and foremost associate with the eighties, this night the group had also chosen to open the show by performing their entire Dare-abum from 1981; one of the electronic music's major releases from back when it was still excotic to see young guys with make up and machines on the worlds charts. There has, as you say, happened a lot since then and the skinny guys with make-up is back in style and the same applies to the machine-made music. So it seems fair enough that The Human League waves the flag and draws attention to their original status as pioneers.
Before Humann League enetred the stage, Onetwo went on as support. It's a fairly new project, consisting of Paul Humphreys from OMD and Claudia Brücken from Propaganda, and that is a combination that looks promosing on paper and also at the same time seems obvious themewise compared to Human League. The band got a good reception from the crowd, live they had added an extra synthesiser geek, infact they got a reception almost worthy of a headlining band. The three musicians performed well technically, but it wasn't my cup of tea musically, not even when they performed both OMD, Propaganda and Associates-material during the show. The sound was too nice and polished and even if there was uplifting moments - like "Kein Anshcluss", that, as the title suggests, was sung in german which gave it a charming Nena-like character - Onetwo wasn't a remarkable musical experience; I'll keep the old recordings of OMD and Propaganda.
Human League has always been a band that put great importance on the visuel aspect of the show, which also applied for Vega. The stage was kept in black and white colours, accompanied by almost perfect lightning, right down to the final detail; all instruments were white, even the microphone stands were white and from the first note it was clear that this was a well presented affair. The first - and best - half of the concert was also well presented, as a blackdressed Oakey, flanked by the female vocalists Catherall and Sulley and with a band dressed in black in the background, performed the entire classic album Dare. Track by track, from the opening "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" to the closing megahit "Don't You Want Me". The concert showed how well Dare works as an album and even if some have their own favourites, "The Sound Of The Crowd" and "Do Or Die" were personal highlights, there isn't one bad track on the album, which the live rendition also clearly showed. Furthermore, Human League deserves big, big praise for playing live instead of opting out for the easy solution. They could have pretended to play on their synthesizers and electronic drums while it all was playback, they could have run the music from laptops, they could have hired a rock band with guitar, bass and drums in an attempt to create a more conventional sound - all strategies that has been seen before. But the band didn't. Instead Barton, Burke, Sutton and Beevers played their synthesizers and electronic drums without pretending and they were 4 very accomplished gentlemen, who actually mastered performing the music as tight as it is nessecary to make excactly this genre work. The vocals also worked fine - Oakey's voice is still an unholy cross between a 70's punk and an 80's yuppie, cultured in a Kraftwerk laboratory. And the costumechanges during the show, from long black leatherjacket during Dare to grey suit for the rest of the concert, only seemed to underline it.
After the performance of Dare, accompanied by a well deserved applaus, the bizzarely silly (which shall not be interpitated as a bad thing) instrumental "Hard Times" were performed as a kind of intermission between 2 halfes, before they went on with The Lebanon, which with lyrics like "He left his home the week before, he thought he's be like the police, but now he finds he is at war, weren't we supposed to keep the peace?" sounds terrifyingly current even today. As a small oddity to the x-mas season, of all songs, Dicte seems to have borrowed a couple of melodylines from this particular Human League song for the title song of DR's x-mas calender show last years Absalons hemmelighed.
The concert moved on in chronical order, and it's both understandable and noteworty that the band don't just work with matarial from the beginning of the eigthies - you have to move on, but to where? And it was definetely unclear to Human League from the mid-eigthies and onwards, where it seemed like the band tried to score hits in the same league as Dare, without really hitting the spot. There are good parts here and there, also after Dare, but to be brutally honest I thought they were tracks I could live without. The concert confirmed what I already knew, and by opening with the excellent Dare-album it became clear why the bands late-eighties and ninities material suffers, compared to past glories. Only song pre Dare was the breakthrough single "Being Boiled", which still is, in my opinion, the bands best moment. This old gem was performed as encore and even if I missed the raw energi from the original, it was still dark and moody, as a blackcladded heart could wish for, complete with ultra-violent sequences from Clockwork Orange on the backdrop of video screens.
Human League not only pulled it off to perform in front of a sould out Store Vega - which is impressive on a tuesday night less than one week before christmas . they also delivered a concert that showed a very competent electronic band. Musically it was especially the tight and close to perfect rendition of Dare that impressed . I would have liked to hear more from the albums pre Dare too, but you cannot expect to it excactly yhe way you want it, not even if you write for Geiger.
26 years ago
the british synthpop band Human League were on top of their career.
Later the album continued it's success in America, where "Don't You Want Me" also became the song that paved the way for a success, that The Human League would never experience at the same level again.
The odd thingg was,
that the bands frontman, Philip Oakey, apparently was anything but happy
about the track.
Tuesday night The Human League entered the stage of Store Vega to perform "Dare", which has obtained a special status amongst fans of electronic music and synthesised sounds.
The album was build on a foundation of strictly electronic instruments, which fitted perfectly with the bands past as a more electronic avangarde project.
On this Susan Sulley stepped up as a real female counterpart to Oakey's famous black/white singing lecture of the lyric of the female waiter, who he makes a star. And she then - in his opinion - betrays the trust he has shown her.
In Store Vega Philip Oakey stood
centerstage with a closeshaven head.
But it was
The Human League, while the musicians surrounding them had changed.
Koncerten var udsolgt, og tilhørerne var for rigtigt manges vedkommende godt skolet i både ”Dare” og det øvrige materiale, der blev leveret en aften, da nostalgi fyldte en masse, men hvor bandet heldigvis viste sig at have format nok til at stå på Store Vegas scene.
For Oakey and Co. it was very important to hold onto the original electronic and slightly melancholic expression during the performance.
At Vega you could tell that Oakey hadn't developed a bigger vocal with more range and espeically in the beginning of the concert it sounded a little strained.
But the songs were delivered and as the travelling through the Dare album tracks took a shape so that you knew the two most powerful songs, "Love Action (I Believe In Love)" and "Don't You Want Me" would make an effectfull ending. Just like the record.
But it was
admireable to experience that The Human League stuck to the original
As it happened, both Oakey, the girls and the band had taken into account that the show needed a different vibe to keep the crowd interested.
The electric dreams was aired back in the eithies by Oakey with synth partner Giorgio Moroder - and without The Human League.
At Vega the
old hit became an effectfully poppy ending for both the band and the crowd
Human League - back to the future with
The eigthies attitude was intact with frontfigur Phil Oakey, flanked by singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley plus a very competent backing band. They started off by playing 'Things That Dreams Are Made Of' while situated in a cocainewhite electronic instrumentlandscape. The next 40 minutes was dedicated to the 'Dare' album, very well played in excactly the right order, culminating with the megahit 'Don't You Want Me' before a short instrumental break and costume changes. Only in the quiet 'Get Carter' did Oakey loose the grib on the crowd, that clearly wasn't there for immersion.
Second half of the concert consisted of a mixture of newer songs and a couple of the smaller eigthies hits, where in particuarly '(Keep Feeling) Fascination got the crowd going, who was loosing their rush as the concert was drawing to a close. Granted that 'Dare' is a classic album - and the best from the hand of The Human League, but it takes something special to transfer the record in unfiltered form to a live situation without a dramatic build up. After the first half, the rest of the concert stood as a sad testamony about the rest of Human League's career, where they never did reach the same standards again.