REVIEW: In a Human League of their own

Human League, Blancmange and Ekkoes, Brighton Centre, December 9

Friday, 16th December 2016, 3:52 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 10:06 am
The Human League

All of a sudden it seems that the Brighton Centre has become a full-capacity Mecca for top synth artists.

In October, they hosted Jean-Michel Jarre and now they’ve announced that Kraftwerk will play a 3D spectacular next June.

Last Friday it was the turn of The Human League.

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The singing and dancing crowd were a mishmash of mostly middle-aged mums and dads, but there were also retired people, younger children and gay couples.

So it’s fair to say that The Human League have achieved universal fandom – not just in this country but around the world. They’ve had two number one singles in the USA – ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and ‘Human’ – both of which were played tonight.

The Brighton punters were rather fortunate as The League had brought two support acts with them.

The evening kicked off with new London four-piece Ekkoes who performed 30 minutes of 1980s-sounding commercial synth-pop. Their second track was a cover of Laura Brannigan’s ‘Self Control’. This sat very well in among their pleasant short set to promote their new debut album, Elekktricty. Take That fans might like them too.

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Next up was the legendary Blancmange. I’ve been a huge fan from the beginning when they unleashed their ‘God’s Kitchen’ 12” single.

It was synth hit after synth hit and included the crowd phone/torch participation ‘Waves’, my favourite Blancmange track ever, which is very ‘Vienna’ if you catch my drift. Obviously the top ten hit ‘Living On A Ceiling’ went down best with the masses and ‘Game Above My Head’ sounded really great.

The lights went out at about 9pm and then ‘boom!’ the first note of ‘Being Boiled’ rang out rather loudly in tandem with very bright lighting.

The Human League had announced to one and all that they had arrived and this was a fantastic start to a thoroughly enjoyable, career-spanning set.

I can remember coming back home to my parents one night in 1979 and turning on their TV. There in front of me was this bloke singing and staring out at me with short hair on one side of his head and very long hair on the other. He was backed by three men, two playing keyboards and the other putting up images on the screen. It was totally awesome and I had just discovered The Human League. The track was ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’ and was from their debut Reproduction album.

Just two years later they were number one here and in the USA. That’s some meteoric rise, considering that those two keyboard players (Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware) went off and formed Heaven 17 and so left just a singer (Phil Oakey) and a chap that does the slides (Adrian Wright). What were they to do? Best thing for it, thought Phil, was to go down to the Crazy Daisy Disco in Sheffield and recruit two teenage girl band members. The plan sure did work, obviously with some help along the way.

So back this epic performance, I have to say that both Phil (now 61) and Susan Ann Sulley (‘now 53) look absolutely stunning. Phil struts around the stage as he owns it, which of course he does, and Susan’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Joanne (now 54) really complements their style.

I first saw The League at The Dome 35 years ago and they were fantastic, but the last time I saw them at The Dome (about 13 years ago), they were to me more like a Human League tribute band.

But now they are surely 100 percent back. Last Friday, they were slick, their clothes looked great and as for the stage set and lights, well, that was certainly top-drawer stuff.

I recognised all of their tracks within a seconds, which is usually a good sign, and I enjoyed them all. The weakest was their 2011 single ‘Sky’, but apart from that it was ‘hits central’ up there – ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’, ‘Open Your Heart’, ‘Soundtrack To A Generation’, ‘The Lebanon’, ‘One Man In My Heart’, ‘Human’, ‘Louise’, ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’, ‘Tell Me When’, ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’, ‘Mirror Man’, and some ditty you might recognise entitled ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

Their final track was the Giorgio Moroder and Phil Oakey classic ‘Together In Electric Dreams’.

My personal favourite track on the night was, surprisingly, ‘Filling Up With Heaven’, closely followed by ‘Seconds’ and ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’.

So to round up, The Human League posted this on their Facebook page: “Thank you Brighton for giving us an absolutely brilliant Friday night out. We really couldn’t have asked for a better audience than you. See you again in 2018!”.

I can’t wait!

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