MANCHESTER 1979 REVIEWS

 

Sounds February 1979

Mick Middles

DISCOVERING SILLINESS IN LEAGUE WITH SEVERITY

The Human League experiment with crowd behaviour.

The set is a strict examination of the reaction of people who are confronted by the totally unexpected. Between each number the band (if I may call them a band) stand back and studiously observe the audience’s faces. They mentally take note of the amount of response or non-response as the case may be. Their music is a collection of information and ideas that are all executed with doomy intrigue. Additional information is provided by two large slide projection screens that hang ominously at the rear.

But are they entertaining?

Songs such as ‘Circus Of Death’ may fill your living room with mystery but at a live gig they fail to convey any message.

The first half of the gig was a sad example of a lack communication situation. Even the more commercial numbers like ‘Being Boiled’ and the Kraftwerkesque ‘Treatment’ didn’t seem to hold the attention of the crowd. In fact the first five numbers rarely rose above the nondescript electronic drone that is limiting as three guitars and a drumkit.

In fact it took an absurd piece of misplaced musical style to transform the night into something that could be described as enjoyable. ‘You’ve Lost That Loving’ did the trick. Most of us stood around with our mouths open (goldfish fashion) as the band performed a perfectly straight version of the old smootch number. It was a joke that changed the entire attitude of the crowd, filling them with sudden realisation that they had been taking The Human League far too seriously. From that moment onwards, the gig commenced.

‘Almost Medieval’ followed complete with electronic noise that rose and dived like a big dipper. This led us into ‘Blind Youth’ which once again failed to stimulate the brain.

But the best was still to come and it arrived in the form of ‘Zero As A Limit’. The song began as a dreary slow march. Behind the band the slides changed with ever increasing speed, alternating from one side of the stage to the other. The music followed suit, building up speed, volume and power. Layer upon layer of synthesizer sound was thrown at us with calculated precision until finally and quickly the music reached its climax. One whole mess of ear splitting noise. The band left the stage enthusiastic applause.

The reaction brought them back within a matter of seconds. Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock And Roll Parts One And Two’ poured out of the speakers. Everyone laughed at the band’s audacity and yet they all joined in with the required ‘Heyheys’.

The slide screens showed clippings from ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and various other favourites from the golden age of TV.

Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing’ (Oh Isn’t it Wild)’ ended the evening.

A confusing gig to sum up. To tell the truth I’m not exactly certain whether or not I enjoyed myself. If I did, was it for the correct reasons? Should I have paid more attention to the serious side of The Human League and less to the silly aspects?

I dunno. I am concerned about the obvious limitations of the music although I await their forthcoming vinyl efforts with interest.