HISTORY has a habit of remembering our
For Phil Oakey, frontman with Sheffield electropop pioneers The Human League,
the legacy of a lopsided haircut will forever be his burden.
It's a particularly worrisome memory too when (some 28 years later) you're
still fronting the same band, sans mop.
But it's the only real sign of age in the Human League camp: 52-year-old
Phil's trim stature and skinhead belie his age, while the 'girls', Susan Ann
Sulley and Joanne Catherall, have taken equally good care of themselves.
It's only right that good preservation is the theme of the night.
We are, after all, here to witness a live rendition of their 1981 electropop
Has it stood the test of time?
Schedule this show six years ago, and maybe not.
But now, as the League's synth-heavy style influences everyone from Bowie to
the Klaxons, the resounding answer is yes.
The chronological performance kicks off with Things That Dreams Are Made Of
before the band rollick through two of their singles, Open Your Heart and
the brooding Sound of the Crowd.
Pleasingly, nothing has been changed. The only sign of progress is an iMac
computer and a series of moving screens (bar Susan's, which gets stuck in
the rafters at the outset) that flash symbolic imagery at us, from morphing
faces of 70s and 80s politicians to war time duck and cover manuals.
Even the girls haven't developed pretentions of becoming real singers.
And it's to their credit - their teenage twitters always were the perfect
tonic to Oakey's booming baritone. Do or Die shakes its salsa credentials
and Oakey's masterful vocal range takes centre stage for I Am The Law, but
of course it's Don't You Want Me that gets everyone going.
And there's almost a sense of relief when it's done, as if it's time for the
band to do the ones they like. As Oakey dashes stage left and right, he
particularly enjoys a spiritied version of The Lebanon, while the girls
favour a gentle rendition of ballad Human and upbeat classic Mirror Man.
For me, it's encore opener Being Boiled that reminds me why the League are
remembered so fondly.
Nearly 30 years after it launched the group's career, it's as dark,
unnerving and absolutely off the wall as it ever was.