Edinburgh Evening News December 2001

Liam Rudden


Stepping into the spotlight, the singer once famous for his lop-sided fringe prepared to transport the “standing room only” crowd back through time in a joyous celebration of electro-pop.

Epitomising that era, a clinically stark white set provided the perfect canvas for a dazzling light show, and the sight of the odd fan brave enough to cram their thirtysomething flesh into long-forgotten twentysomething outfits added a touch of authenticity to the occasion.

Even opening with material from the new album didn’t deter the crowd from clapping along as a lone Oaket droned “the circus of death is approaching”. Enter Joanne Catherall and Suzanne Sulley to complete the now familiar line-up.

Like their audience, the Human League have changed over the years. There used to be four of them, including Edinburgh’s Joe Callis. Despite writing many of their greatest hits, he’s long gone now. Of Oakey’s handmaidens, one has worn better than the other but, in his leather – or was it PVC? – drainpipes and Edwardian frockcoat it is Oakey himself who has worn best of all.

Delighting the crowd with limited banter, The Human League create a slick, bass-driven hour and a half of well structured high energy synthetic euphoria. New songs meld easily with old, even if they never quite live up to their promise. However, the top ten techno-chant Love Action had every hand in the air as the audience became a pliant mass of flesh open to Sulley’s every command.

Originally, the girls teased the blokes in the audience with their sexy antics, and a decade-and-a-half later theu still try, although it has to be said their routines are more camp now than anything else. They can still entertain although on occasion their off-key harmonies were as painful as their dancing.

Bathed in blood red light, as the girls (thankfully) took a break, Oakey announced: “This one is about the assassination of President Kennedy”. The highlight of the night, seconds is a powerful musical tribute with chilling overtones. By now the Human League were on a roll: “Here’s a song from Dare. It’s about you in the audience”, said Oakey. Electric Dreams sent the crowd ballistic and as jackets and T-shirts rained on to the stage from the audience the band signed them as they sang. Everyone knew the end was nigh when the instantly recognisable strains of Don’t You Want Me echoed around the hall.

“I’m only human”, sang Oakey at one point. Judging by the cheering, clapping and stamping of feet that his exit elicited from the audience, he was a god.