The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own

The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own

It appears to me that in 2017 I have spent more time going to see bands from the ‘80s than anyone new. Is it just me, is it a nostalgia phase I’m going through? Is there something special about bands from that era that is being rediscovered or at the very least celebrated anew? Perhaps I’ll work it out tonight.

At first glance the near capacity crowd tonight appeared to favour the notion of nostalgia with most being in an age group indicating that they were here to re-live the soundtrack of their youth. For me I too was reliving moments from my past that involved both these bands in a professional and personal way but also as a fan.

Just after seven pm the lights went down and a loud backing track pumped out the heavy bass synth lines of ‘Funky Town’ which elicited a roar of appreciation from the crowd as three band members took to the stage, one drummer flanked by two Korg Keytars. The music morphed into a recent Pseudo Echo track ‘Ultraviolet’ and out came lead singer, guitarist, songwriter and only remaining original member Brian Canham, who is looking every bit the rock star.

SOURCE: Fan footage from YouTube

For the next 45 minutes Pseudo Echo delivered a powerful set of familiar songs reminding us of how big they were in the ‘80s. Brian told stories of the early days and paying tribute to Molly and Countdown before playing their classic debut single ‘Listening’. ‘A Beat for You’ was dedicated to “All the teenage girls of the ‘80s” while covers of ‘Nutbush City Limits’ and ‘Send Me An Angel’ had the crowd on their feet dancing, clapping and singing along. It was another cover that closed the set, their mighty cover of the Lipps Inc. disco song ‘Funky Town’ which was Pseudo Echo’s biggest hit in Australia and overseas. The set ended with a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience.

Pseudo Echo are sounding better than ever and Brian Canham is a consummate front man who knows what his audience wants and delivers it perfectly.

The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own
The Human League

After a short break the stage was set for The Human League. Three large video screens blazed behind a riser featuring a set of Syn-drums on either side of which were two banks of keyboards. The first track, ‘Sky’ begins as singers Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall, both looking very glam, take up positions at the front of stage while lead singer Philip Oakey appears on the riser in sunglasses and a black leather ‘smock-like‘ overcoat resembling a character from The Matrix.

The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own
Susan Ann Sulley

The very familiar opening chords of ‘Mirror Man’ were up next and the crowd responded by jumping to their feet and clapping along. Philip was extremely animated running around the stage and engaging with the audience. This was a far cry from the Philip Oakey who stood almost motionless on this same stage on their first visit to Australia thirty-five years ago in 1982.

A strong version of ‘Heart Like A Wheel’, from the shamefully ignored Romantic album, displays strong vocal performances by all three singers after which Philip shares a funny story about getting his “worst haircut ever” on his first visit to Melbourne and then we’re straight into another audience favourite ‘Sound Of The Crowd’ from the iconic album Dare, proving ‘80s synth-pop can sound as fresh today as it did then.

The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own
Joanne Catherall

Another track from Romantic, ‘Soundtrack To A Generation’, is followed by a stark and powerful rendition of ‘Seconds’ exemplifying the “No guitars” credo adopted by early Human League.

The girls are back after a change of outfit and re-join Philip for ‘The Lebanon’, which introduced guitar to The Human League sound back in 1984. It remains a powerful song both musically and lyrically in today’s troubled Middle East.

SOURCE: Fan footage from YouTube

For the rest of the set we are treated to a selection of catalogue standouts including ‘Human’, ‘Tell Me When’ and ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’, a tribute to Japanese electronic pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra with ‘Behind The Mask’, some more of Philip’s humour as he complains about our weather compared to Sheffield in December and of course more from Dare.

SOURCE: Fan footage from YouTube

‘Open Your Heart’ and ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’ prove to be major crowd favourites but nothing compares to the reaction when the introduction starts for ‘Don’t You Want Me’. It’s a long intro while the vocalists are off stage but return in new outfits with Philip now in all white. The crowd and band are having a wonderful time with everyone singing the chorus at the top of their lungs.

SOURCE: Fan footage from YouTube
SOURCE: Fan footage from YouTube

After a short encore break Philip and the band perform ’Being Boiled’ their debut single from 1979, which David Bowie at the time pronounced as “The future of music.” Susan and Joanne are back on stage and the evening ends with the Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder anthem ‘Together In Electric Dreams’

SOURCE: Fan footage from YouTube

As I headed home I pondered the question again, “Is this nostalgia?” and decided that regardless of when it was made the music of The Human League has not dated and it is not fixed at a point in history but rather belongs to the future as Bowie predicted and we are just fortunate to be able to enjoy it now. I look forward to their return.

The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own
Philip Oakey

For Carbie Warbie's complete Human League photo gallery, please go to our sister music website, GigBill.

The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own


Saturday 9th December
Perth Arena

Monday 11th December
Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide

Wednesday 13th December
Palais Theatre, Melbourne

Friday 15th December
State Theatre, Sydney

Saturday 16th December
The Star, Gold Coast

The Human League Remain In A League Of Their Own
Setlist photo credit: Harry Williams
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