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The Human League (Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith)

Rounding off the year with a second visit to see the League, following Kew the Music in the summer, this time at the venue many still call the Hammersmith Odeon.

With songs from nine of their ten studio albums represented, plus the ever-present Together in Electric Dreams, this concert again presented 90 minutes of slick nostalgic pop perfection.

There have been slight grumbles this year about the pricing of the tour. The last time the Human League visited London outside of festivals and outdoor shows was in 2016 at the Royal Festival Hall and that was at half the price.

We opted to pay the premium rate of £95 plus £12 booking fee. Those seats gave a good close view of the band, but the intricate block and video projection set must have had a bigger wow factor from the £55 tickets further back or up in the circle.

The Red tour – it is unclear why it is so called, or why the red-themed programme contains studio photos from several years ago – is not promoting any new album. The last new recordings were on Credo in 2010, and the setlist continues to retain the crowd-pleasers from Dare plus other well-known songs.

This said, it is always a pleasure to see Philip Oakey who retains his androgynous attractiveness and rangy baritone, and to experience the electropop band and familiar singing/dancing back-up from his collaborators of thirty-eight years, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley.

The League know their fans and provide a good night’s entertainment. We would all love to see them produce some new material as a mature and evolving act rather than an 80s nostalgia band, but this is looking less and less likely.

Perhaps we should just celebrate Phil and his girls who remain comfortable in each other’s company, evoking memories in all of us of those years gone by.

The Human League were supported at this show by Midge Ure’s Electronica, who provided an accomplished opener including Vienna, Fade to Grey and Dancing With Tears in My Eyes, which finally got the crowd to their feet.

The setlist for the Hammersmith show: from Reproduction: Being Boiled; from Dare: Sound of the Crowd, Things That Dreams Are Made Of, Open Your Heart, Love Action, Seconds, Don’t You Want Me; from Hysteria: The Lebanon, Louise; from Crash: Human; from Romantic: Heart Like a Wheel; from Octopus: One Man in My Heart, Tell Me When; from Secrets: All I Ever Wanted; from Credo: Night People. Plus non-album songs: Mirror Man, (Keep Feeling) Fascination, Behind the Mask, and the Moroder-Oakey track Together in Electric Dreams.

All photos by Louise Penn.


Human League (Kew the Music)

My first ‘festival-ish’ experience of the veteran electronica act whose high point remains the run of chart buzzers from 1981’s Dare, and the rain – a couple of spits aside – stayed away to prove the weather warnings wrong.

The core of the band remains Philip, Joanne and Susan, a little older but with their energy undiminished as the girls dance (Susan is the confident one keeping the crowd ‘up’) and the main man doesn’t keep still for much time, with several costume changes and racing around from side to side of the stage.

A 75 minute set was high on those hits from their most successful year, plus the opener Sky from their last studio album to date, Credo (2010), several ‘middle period’ crowd-pleasers (Heart Like A Wheel, Soundtrack to a Generation, Tell Me When), and minor hits The Lebanon (with the notable line about the shops) and Louise.

There’s a cover, too, of Eric Clapton’s Behind The Mask and – a seeming fixture in this 40th year since the band’s formation – Being Boiled, from the days the League was quite a different trio with their own manifesto.

Support from Blancmange and Luna started the evening in style, and a few thousand people mainly above the age of forty enjoyed a fun and nostalgic night of dancing and singing along with a trio who remain tireless and undiminished.

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