Heaven 17 (Birmingham Town Hall)

One of Sheffield’s finest electro-pop groups, Heaven 17 emerged from the original Human League in the early 1980s leaving the name (and it has to be said, the chart success) to Phil Oakey, while continuing to plow their own furrow as a trio.  With Ian Craig Marsh leaving the band in 2007, the others (keyboard wizard Martyn Ware and singer Glenn Gregory) continue to perform as a duo, augmented by two girl singers (Billie Godfrey and Rachel Mosleh) and a keyboardist (Berenice Scott) for their live shows.

Heaven 17 never really bothered the Top 40 – achieving just two big hits in 1983 (‘Come Live With Me’ and ‘Temptation’), and did not even play fully live until the 1990s.  Still, their brand of pulsating electro-beats and melodic vocals evokes the spirit of thirty years back while still sounding musically relevant.  The venue was not the most inspiring of settings so I was pleased that early crowd-pleasers included ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’ and ‘Let’s All Make a Bomb’, which got the stalls crowd on their feet.  A quieter passage included the Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’, while a couple of early Human League songs – notably ‘Being Boiled’ – went down well, as did their own personal favourite of their own songs, ‘Let Me Go’, and the dreamy synch-swirl of ‘Dive’.

I was especially pleased to see ‘Temptation’ make the set – one of Great Britain’s finest dance records, in my opinion – giving the girls a chance to let themselves go after a fairly restrained backing performance throughout.  It seems that this group have had something of a resurgence following their complete live performances of the ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ album a few years ago.

I’d say this show takes a while to get going (and it’s short – advertised as 70 minutes, it actually ran to 90) but by the end, everyone had the chance of a bop and left happy.