http://today.reuters.com September 2006

Craig Rosen
It was totally appropriate that Go-Go's guitarist and recent "Surreal Life" house guest Jane Wiedlin served as the host for the "Total '80s" package Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl. After all, the show -- which featured the Human League, the Psychedelic Furs and ABC -- was nothing if not surreal.

Considering that fact that each act's commercial prime was a good two decades ago, it was bizarre to see them attract 14,000 fans in 2006. The crowd might have been about 3,000 shy of the venue's capacity, but it was nothing to scoff at.

Nostalgia tours can be a mixed bag. On one hand, they can provide fans and artists a chance to revisit the past and remember happier times or provide a trip back in time for those who were too young to catch the wave the first time around. Then again, as an artist, if you're spending too much time celebrating the past, perhaps you're at a creative dead end.

On Saturday, all three acts spent almost the entire evening looking back...

...Strangely, the Human League -- which was the most modern-sounding act of the three during the '80s -- sounded and looked the most dated with its Kraftwerk-meets-ABBA synth-pop and white stage setup, featuring strap-on keyboards and an electronic drum kit. Still, it was hard not to get caught up in the moment when the band delivered its 1982 chart topper "Don't You Want Me," even if Susan Ann Sulley's vocals sounded thin next to Phil Oakey's booming baritone.

Adding to the weirdness of the evening, the Human League delivered the most lyrically topical song of the evening, 1984's "The Lebanon," with the hauntingly current lyrics, "and who will have won when the soldiers are gone?" Yet Oakey failed to note the song's relevance, and it came off like just another frothy electro-dance number....


www.thomasdolby.com September2006

I dropped by the Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco last night to watch The Human League. The last time I saw them was in about 1979 at the Marquee Club which was then on Wardour St in Soho, London. I remember then that they were the first band I ever saw using synchronized slide projections, and Phil Oakey had a flock of black hair down one side of his face. That was well prior to the two female singers, whose arrival took the band out of the electronic underground of the likes of Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, and thrust them into the international limelight. I thought they were great last night. Phil looks and sounds terrific and the lads did very faithful reporductions of so many songs I listened to back then: ‘Empire State Human’, ‘Fascination’, ‘Open Your Heart’ and ‘I’m Only Human’… each line as it unfolded turned out to be one I knew off by heart. They have a very pure sound that they have guarded well over the years, so much warmer and more laced with irony than most electronic pop acts.

This pic is not actually from last night night’s show but it captures the atmosphere. They get to play the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday, for which I envy them even though the stage sound is notoriously nasty. Glad to see Phil is sporting the Dolby/Moby/Eno/Rudess haircut these days. The road to MIDI hell is paved with bad hairpieces!


www.remembertheeighties.com September 2006

Michelle Armour

As an old school new waver who spent her youth pining for pretty British boys with asymmetrical haircuts, the only thing better than seeing a great '80s band, is seeing three great '80s bands. And why not? After all, the '80s was the decade of excess and indulgence. In this spirit, the beautiful Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles was kind enough to deliver-up an iconic trio of new wave pioneers for its 'Totally '80s' evening. Featuring the soulful soundscapes of ABC, the velvety dissonance of The Psychedelic Furs and The Human League's seductive (and very modern sounding) electronica, the evening was a grand lovefest for the class of '84.
While I've had the pleasure of seeing all three of these acts in small-to-mid-size venues in the past year, their combined cachet was clearly more than enough to bring out the wallflowers. Los Angeles babysitters must have been at a premium as about 16,000 people flocked to the Bowl for a night of mantra-like group sing-alongs and gleeful, grinning dancing. The evening's festivities were kicked off by hostess, and Go-Go's veteran, Jane Wiedlin, who playfully came out wearing a mask and towel, a la the cover of Beauty and the Beat...
...After a brief break and Karaoke intermission that saw Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow, sing 'I Want Candy' at Jane Wiedlin's prompting, The Human League took the stage. In the spirit of genuine camaraderie that all the evening's performers seemed to share, as the Human League played their set, Richard Butler stood intently watching the performance on the monitor. They didn't disappoint. Once hailed by David Bowie who described Human League as like 'listening to the future,' Philip Oakey, Susan Anne Sulley and Joanne Catherall showed that the future had arrived, as they filled the Hollywood Bowl with their textured blend of melody and machinery.
As beautifully as songs like 'Sound of the Crowd,' 'Love Action,' 'The Things That Dreams are Made Of,' 'Fascination' and 'Seconds' have aged, Phil Oakey and the girls have aged even better. As I watched him prowl the stage in a metallic steel-gray suit and shiny tie, like something fresh off the cover of W magazine, I couldn't help but wonder if Oakey had a scary, moldering portrait of himself aging away somewhere in a vault. Yes, he looked that pretty!
Human League finished off their set with 'Don't You Want Me,' as Phil graciously drifted to the back of the stage to let Susan take the spotlight for her empowered portion of the duet. For their encore, the band played 'Electric Dreams,' and as good as the set was, I had that brief moment of melancholy that I get near the end of almost all great '80s shows, when you realize that the night is too short, and the list of great songs too long. And as selfish as it may sound, if I could have had my way, I would have had Phil sing 'Life On Your Own' just for me (a girl can wish) to close out the night.
As my friends and I basked in the afterglow of the concert, what stood out for all of us was just how strong the performances had been. Consummate showmen with voices that require no studio enhancement, each of the lead singers found their own balance between the power of nostalgia, and the joy of the moment. When watched side- by-side it was also remarkably clear how unique and original the sound of each of these bands has always been, defying that knee-jerk habit some people have of lumping all '80s bands together.
Backstage after the show, with people like Courtney Love and ex-Scritti Politti mainman Fred Maher adding to the celebratory atmosphere, the performers and their bands seemed happy and pleased with the event. Refreshingly, Phil Oakey even admitted to being a little nervous in advance of the show, sweetly acknowledging how much he respected his co-acts. Equally as down-to-earth, as I talked to Martin Fry about his teenage children, I asked him if they knew how cool their father was? Martin laughed with self-deprecating good humor. 'Not at all!' he replied.
Somebody needs to give those kids a good talking to.


Papermag Word Up! September 2006

Ann Magnuson


Last Saturday the Hollywood Bowl hosted a Totally '80s Night. Bands appearing were The Human League, The Psychedelic Furs and ABC. But it was the audience I was looking forward to seeing. Alas, last minute family obligations called us out of town. So we gave our tickets to pals Gary and George and asked Gary to file a report. Here 'tis:

I'm totally in recovery from my latest experience in the production of a low-budget feature film. I'm so physically and emotionally/mentally exhausted, that it's caused major narcolepsy.  I thought I would be over it in a week, but apparently not.  And then there's the "looking for the next gig" topic - I can barely stay awake, let alone make phone calls and feign excitement to work.  Perhaps I need to check in with a therapist.  Maybe I'm just exhausted from going 100 miles-an-hour nonstop and I need to sleep.  Maybe seeing these bands contributed to my over-all mental freakout, as each band's music spawned many synapses (people, places, and thrift stores and "wow, 25 years later, and what's happened...").   Then again, it was like yesterday, and who cares?  We're doing pretty fucking great...


...Human League was definitely the most musically interesting and engaging of all three bands.  Their equipment and instruments were completely white.  Phil Oakey, in a dapper suit, was full of energy, and kept running back and forth, from stage left to right, to each performer, very positive commentary.  His voice was really amazing, hitting high notes, etc.  The music felt simultaneously old and new. Weird. Nice to see original back-up members Joanne Catherall & Susanne Sulley still performing with the band.  The DON'T YOU WANT ME SING ALONG was highly entertaining...