The Human League, (We Are) Performance
Luke Langlands 15/12/2010
On the morning of the day I was set to go see The Human League, I mentioned the fact that I was going to a few friends. I was flabbergasted to be given the response 'Who are The Human League?' Who are The Human League?! Jesus, the youth of today…OBVIOUSLY, I'm talking about one of the most important and influential electronic bands of the 1980's up to the current day. Their 1981 album Dare remains to this day an absolute belter.
After seeing their support, (We Are) Performance (who never seemed to actually perform much at all…most of it was pre-recorded), The Human League began their show in front of a mostly 'older' crowd, which was disappointing. A band of this pedigree doesn't deserve to wind-up with a wholly gray brigade of fans. Predictably dramatic and flamboyant, Phil Oakey pleased the crowd with his excellent voice and altogether mental clothing at the beginning of the set. The gig is massively choreographed, with every musician knowing where they're supposed to walk and when they're supposed to nod their heads or even breathe (you'll either love or hate it - but you'll definitely expect it!) I can't help but think it would be altogether a more 'natural' gig if the band just played the bloody songs and never had to worry about where they're supposed to be standing.
One thing that was absolutely staggering was how Susan Sulley's voice has not changed at all since the 1980's - it's still brilliant, and shines through record-perfect during the obligatory Don't You Want Me. The same can't be said about Joanne Catherall - a lot of the time it appeared that Sulley was carrying the backing vocals and harmonies mostly on her own. When the gig was over and I was heading for the exit, I overheard several people agreeing with my own sentiments.
There were a few songs that weren't great (Empire State Human and The Lebanon being two of them). The main thing when you see The Human League is that you've got to really invest time in listening to them properly before you go, or else it's all too easy to not really appreciate them and scathe them as 'bland', which they are anything but. In the crowd it's easy to point out the massive Human League fans who have followed them throughout their teens up to parenthood, as well as the ones who have came to the gig just because they remember them from the 80's.
I'm not saying go to a Human League gig because you'll definitely love them - I imagine in this modern music era a lot of people will hate them. I'm saying go and see them because the British music scene owe so much to them, and they're still traveling up and down the country grafting, and hoping to become the 'last best thing to become the next best, again'.