Plymouth Evening Herald December 2004


Do you ever wonder about support acts?

Sometimes they're there to provide a contrast; sometimes they're inserted by the record company and provide neither contrast or complement; sometimes they're chosen by the headline act because they believe this is an up-and-coming act we should all be aware of.

And sometimes - well, sometimes you wonder if the support are chosen because they play a similar style of music but not quite as impressively as the main act, so they're likely to get a sympathetic reaction but are unlikely to steal the show.

Trademark were a bit like that: very retro, very early Eighties, sort of Pet Shop Boys-meet- Kraftwerk or Devo or Yazoo - but 20 years too late. And yet they looked young enough not to have been there first time around. Unlikely to trouble the charts now, that's for sure.

On the other hand, the Human League were one of the biggest acts of that period, with hits aplenty.

They started with Mirror Man from 1982 - the year they won a Best Newcomer award, back in the days when Phil Oakey had that oh-so- memorable lopsided haircut.

It's all gone now - looks like a grade one or two all over.

It ages him a bit, but remarkably Joanne and Susanne look as youthful as ever, although Susanne has gone a touch flouncy and a little Dolly Parton, while Joanne is as wonderfully wooden as she always was.

Having said that, the whole set, with giant video and projection screens and a carefully-chosen costume array, was unquestionably stylish.

Phil's shades and spangly rock star coat were discarded after the first number: the sharp suit jacket came off a little later. The girls went through two or three fairly skimpy outfits and the guys - and girl - in the band, recreating those ground-breaking electronic one-finger riffs and drum beats, were simply chic in black T-shirts and jeans.

And what of the music? All the hits were there: Human, Empire State Human, Fascination, Lebanon, Love Action, Sound of the Crowd. And actually the crowd was relatively subdued. One might have expected a band which been around that long to work the audience a bit more, but no.

The big Christmas No 1 from 1981, Don't You Want Me, insinuated itself into the set just prior to the encores and there was no real build-up for Being Boiled, which opened the first encore, or for Things That Dreams Are Made Of, which wrapped the evening up.

Verdict overall? Looked good, sounded great, but somehow lacked something somewhere. Maybe a full house would have helped, but then again, maybe that's why it wasn't full in the first place.