NOTTINGHAM 2007 REVIEWS
The Guardian November 2007
Schoolgirls out dancing are not advised to respond to advances from strange men sporting lopsided haircuts and full makeup. However, when Philip Oakey recruited 17-year-olds Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall in Sheffield's Crazy Daisy nightclub in 1980, the resulting Human League lineup produced one of the most influential albums ever, 1981's Dare. "One day, all music will be made like this," the music press said of the League's synthesiser-only sound; here, Oakey explains they wanted to do something "that wasn't based in rock". With that sound still reverberating through acts from Ladytron to Calvin Harris, the band are replicating their masterpiece.
Dare's songs are still remarkably fresh and unusual, with Do Or Die even sounding like an early type of acid house. But the band have cleverly mixed futuristic visuals with images that reflect the grim Britain Dare was born in. The haunting starkness of Darkness is illustrated by the 1981 BBC test card. The Sound of the Crowd is accompanied by Thatcher-era minister Geoffrey Howe and a sheep.
Members have come and gone, as has Oakey's notorious barnet; having refused to employ an avant-garde wigmaker for this tour, the 52-year-old sports an ageless shaven-headed android look that complements the synthetic sound as perfectly as his lugubrious baritone. The Sheffield charm that endeared them to the British public endures. Oakey struggles to keep a straight face while holding a tiny 1980 vintage synth, and the 40-something "girls" produce gasps for wearing, unfeasibly, even shorter skirts than they did in 1981. Love Action and Don't You Want Me predictably bring the house down, but a succession of later, mostly lesser hits (with The Lebanon even employing - pah! - rock guitars) underline the difficulty faced after Dare: how do you follow perfection?
www.bbc.co.uk November 2007
Having waited 26 years for this moment, I was dreading it being a disappointment. It wasn't.
My original copy of the Dare album had to be replaced. I had played it so many times that the grooves got worn away. I was 12 when it came out and soon became completely obsessed with everything about The Human League.
First there was Elvis
Forgive me for saying this but I reckon what Elvis did to change the course of music in the 50s The Human League did in a similar way in the late 70s. The electronic synth movement was born. Phil Oakey said last night: "We only ever tried to be a little bit different". They were different and that's why their fans love them.
The night kicked off with a session from no ordinary warm up act, 'One, Two', a line up of one part OMD, one part Propaganda and one part Manhattan Clique. I waited eagerly for Propaganda's 'Duel' and got a warm glow when it appeared at the end of their set.
Then, the stage was set with the instantly recognisable 'Dare' backdrop, projection screens and all the technology necessary for the much anticipated appearance of The League.
The first one out of the bag was the opening track of the album, 'Things That Dreams Are Made Of'. The crowd accompanied the League originals, Phil Oakey and the still so surly looking Joanne and Susan and the quite simply brilliant backing band.
Over the next 40 minutes they raced through the ten numbers that make up the Dare track list including 'The Sound of the Crowd', 'Seconds' and 'Get Carter'.
When we had heard the final track from the album, 'Don't You Want Me', we were left wanting more and thinking 'What next?' but a costume change brought another set packed with their other hits including Fascination, Lebanon, Mirror Man and Together in Electric Dreams. One of the highlights for me, never thinking for one minute I would ever see it performed live, was the fabulously weird debut single 'Being Boiled'.
There wasn't anything I didn't like about last night's gig. The League were highly polished, the sound was big and crystal clear and the lighting and projection fabulous, if not a little disturbing in places. What surprised me most was Phil Oakey's obvious sense of humour, for some reason, it had never occurred to me that he had one. He was clearly having a great time. Just like us.
The last thing he asked before leaving the stage was: "Which is the best band from the 80's?" He really didn't need to ask!