The Star, Sheffield December 2003

Pop fans Phil in for Cr-Oakey!

ONE of their biggest hits clearly states: "I'm only human."

So when the hometown gremlins did their best to turn Human League's Phil Oakey into Phil Croakey last night the irony surely wasn't lost on either audience or band.
We were flipping back the years, the odd decade, quite nicely before those distinctive dulcet tones began to dent and our host invited/pleaded with Sheffield City Hall to sing along and help him out.
Hard Times ushered in the band as thick ceiling-to-stage drapes rose to reveal a stage show of frugal but effective design.
Oakey stalked the stage in a long leather coat and sunglasses like a restless foreman the loss of that floppy fringe has only served to make the tall man cooler.
Menacing even, until he loses the commandant clobber and addresses his followers with unassuming presence.
The mewing intro of catchy classic Love Action sounds somehow fresh again this time around.
In contrast One Man In My Heart, even with a pleasant acoustic arrangement, is more cruise ship than ever and dated beyond its years.
Maybe because so much in music has come full circle do the League rank so relevant overall on this latest hometown engagement.
Possibly it is nostalgia, or simple protectiveness in the face of such forced pop perfection elsewhere, which makes us embrace the League's imperfections that little bit more. Innovation over drilled dance routines save the latter for Liberty X.
Being Boiled is cruelly sacrificed this time while the hideous Electric Dream inexplicably remains, but pre-Susan and Catherine uber-electro gem Empire State Human is given a welcome outing.
All this as we wonder whether Oakey's tortured tonsils are going to get us to the final furlong.
Fortunately, Ms Sulley's revealing encore costume change Dancing Dollar take note takes male attention, at least, off any rustic vocal as a buoyant finale leads to the house lights. Until next year, then? As sure as Santa loves a glass of QC.

10 December 2003