The Human League’s Philip Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley were in celebratory mood tonight – half way through a 12-date UK arena tour to mark 40 years since their famed third album “DARE”.
Backed by three young be-suited musicians on keyboards, drums and guitar, circa 11,000 fans were on their feet to dance the night away from the first few notes of song # one – 1982 sing-along hit “Mirror Man”.
No let up for the dancers with “Tell Me When” and “Keep Feeling (Fascination)”, delivered in fine form on the tasty 20-song menu.
Philip Oakey, at 66, would put many, half his age, to shame with his energy levels, as he dashes from one side of the vast arena stage to the other, and up and down steps for the duration of the gig.
Either he was wearing a ‘Fitbit’ or he’d downed 10 cans of Red Bull in the dressing room! (Other energy drinks are available!!!)
All three voices are in-tact and no sign of digital help from pre-recorded vocal tracks or auto-tune here, folks. Did not even hear any of the songs lowered in key, as is pretty common practice on the nostalgia circuit for singers of a certain age.
But that is the thing, maybe. The Human League can still pull and fill arenas in the UK and Europe, and do not have to rely on the “Back to the…..” style package tours and festivals.
And on tonight’s offering, they deserve their status and following. Nothing to fault. The hits kept-a-coming, and the non-hit album tracks from “DARE” as they performed the entire album in original track order.
While this was the week the Government said you gotta wear masks indoors at large events, such as inside concert halls, amid the row over the alleged # 10 Christmas Party during lockdown last year, most here tonight may well have claimed short term amnesia for a few hours! Perhaps “I Am The Law” and the lyric, “’I know rules are a bore” summed up the collective mood nicely!
The night kicked off with a treat from Scottish band Altered Images, fronted by singer, actress and TV presenter Claire Grogan. Then Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins turned in a decent set, before a fanfare announced electro-pop Royalty to the stage.
After the title track from “Dare”, the crowd audibly showed their approval for “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of”. Tonight it was cool they did not change any arrangements of the “Dare” songs, or shove a few songs together in a medley. All done the way they sound on the record. Bravo.
After a few costume changes, they get to their biggest hit as the final song of the main set, the timeless and infectious “Don’t You Want Me”, and to a man/woman, everyone in the crowd sang the chorus at the top of their voice. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if residents of Stockport reported an earth tremor at that time!
The encore delivered “Being Boiled” and then the final song of the night, the Giorgio Moroder/Philip Oakey movie track and smash hit, “Together In Electric Dreams”.
The fans roared their thanks for a pre-Christmas cracker of a show, and it was obvious Joanne, Susan and Mr Oakey were thrilled and a wee bit emotional about such an overwhelming display of love crashing onto the stage from the audience like a Tsunami.
As the two ladies waved goodbye and blew kisses, Philip had the last words of the night: “Thank you Manchester. Have a brilliant Christmas. Thankyou for making our lives.” Many would probably like to thank him/them, for making the soundtrack to theirs, maybe.
A decade since their last album (“Credo”), based on the audience’s response tonight, which is pretty much repeated every night on the tour – and the outpouring of love for them across social media from a large and loyal fan-base, a long-overdue new album could well dent the upper reaches of the album chart.
Go on Phil and co….DARE You!
Tell Me When
(Keep Feeling) Fascination
Heart Like a Wheel
One Man in My Heart
The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
Open Your Heart
The Sound Of The Crowd
Do Or Die
I Am The Law
Love Action (I Believe in Love)
Don’t You Want Me.
Together in Electric Dreams.
Words & Photos: Mike Gray