Ipswich Evening Star December 2004

Nigel Pickover


YOU were queuing in a Chinese takeaway in Sheffield - when I met you.

Pinching and adapting the introduction to The Human League's number one single from the early 1980's, Don't You Want Me Baby, is particularly appropriate for this reviewer.
For a quarter of a century ago, me - young reporter - met them - fledgling electro-pop stars - as we waited for our sweet and sour and chow mein dishes on Ecclesall Road, Greystones, Sheffield.
We exchanged pleasantries and moved off on our respective journeys - reunited last night at The Regent in Ipswich for a night of high energy and marvellous memories.
The Human League - The League to their adoring worldwide army of fans - have lost none of the passion and raw talent which swept them to both the top of the singles and album charts, from their home-town base in Sheffield.
In fact, they seem to get better and better and wowed a packed Regent, where most stood, cheered and sang for most of the ninety-five minute set.
Philip Oakey has now adopted a Beckham-esque look and bounces around the stage with a speed and agility the Real Madrid star would be proud of.
And then there's the girls, Susan Anne Sulley and Joanne Catherall, making up the trio at the heart of the League. They looked fantastic, better then ever and sounded fantastic. A genius Oakey may be, but where would he be without the pair of schoolgirls he found dancing the night away in a South Yorkshire club?
Last night's show was a triumph for the seven-piece unit welded together by Oakey. Youngster Nic Burke turned in a high-octave performance on guitar and then shoulder-strapped keyboard. Neil Sutton and Rob Barton held the "backroom" boys together well, on keyboard and percussion respectively. The whole electro-show was orchestrated by programme manager Dave Beevers.
The show opened to Mirror Man, an old crowd favourite. The girls were stunning in white - the first of three costumes for them on the night. Big Phil was menacing in dark glasses and steel-grey trench coat - and singing with the clarity and style which has taken him into a fourth decade of concert-giving. Open Your Heart, from the classic Dare album, followed. Song number three, Tell Me When, from the Octopus album, sent the crowd into raptures and they surged to the front.
The band seemed to lap up the adulation on this, the fifteenth gig of a 2004 British tour - regularly praising the Ipswich audience, with just a hint of their Sheffield (Sheff-fuld) accents coming through.
Highlights for me were Human, from the Crash album, The Lebanon, from Hysteria and Electric Dreams, a joint Oakey and Giorgio Moroder production.
Described by many as "synth (electro) pop's first international superstars, the Human League emerged in the late seventies with an innovative style based on synthesizers and electronic rhythms.
They gained an amazingly loyal fan base and last night's programme tributes underscored the point. "The Human League are the soundtrack of my life," said one. "They make me feel invincible, make me dance inside and give me the biggest buzz in the world," said another.
So back to that lyric re-working that I began with ... Now 25 years on you still have the world at your feet ... for many of us they still do. Thanks for the memories, League, Suffolk is proud of you.