Human League – 3 December 2016, Steel Hall, Sheffield


thfs5jysniThe Human League are my favourite band and this is the 10th time I have seen them live so this post will be slightly bias but it will be the first time I’ve seen them live in their home town whilst I live in the same town, the first time I’ve seen them at an arena, my first visit to Sheffield Arena, the first time I’ve taken my boyfriend to see them and the first time I have seen them perform my favourite track of theirs “Soundtrack to a Generation” (my favourite ever lyric is “Years have gone on in between but all I knew at seventeen is all I know now. Through times of joy and Suffering the music flavours everything. That’s all I know now.”) so they are more than worthy of this review.

Apart from great music, great lyrics and a great atmosphere with the energy from the audience bouncing off the band and vice versa, there are comforting things about Human League gigs I love, from Susan always looking like she is having the time of her life and Joanne looking slightly less so, the girls wearing glamorous dresses and less clothing being wby the end, Phil normally forgetting at least one lyric, to the band always being introducing during “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, the main set ending with the singalong of “Don’t You Want Me” and the encore with “Together in Electric Dreams” (a Phil Oakey rather than Human League track but adopted by them and us audience members as an anthem to keep us going to their next tour.

Supported by a group of musicians whose names are instantly forgotten the minute they are introduced (sorry!!), the Human League’s main line up has been lead singer Phil Oakey who joined the band in 1977 (I happily confess to having a major crush on him) who after the rest of the band deserted him in 1980 to form Heaven 17 has been joined ever since by school friends Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall. Their set list for their 2016 tour is:

  1. Being Boiled
  2. The Sound of the Crowd
  3. Sky
  4. Heart Like a Wheel
  5. Filling Up With Heaven
  6. Open Your Heart
  7. Soundtrack to a Generation
  8. Seconds
  9. The Lebanon
  10. One Man in My Heart
  11. Human
  12. Louise
  13. Stay With Me Tonight
  14. Love Action (I Believe in Love)
  15. Tell Me When
  16. (Keep Feeling) Fascination
  17. Mirror Man
  18. Don’t You Want Me

Encore:

  1. The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
  2. Together in Electric Dreams

But before that, support came from two bands. First up was Ekkoes (pronounced “Echoes”), a four piece electro-pop band from London, formed originally by Jon Beck (vocals) and Dave Fawbert (keyboards, guitar) and joined Limerick-born Rosalee O’Connell on joint lead vocals. I can best describe them as a contemporary sounding Erasure whose set I loved enough to buy their new album “Elekktricty” after their set, though didn’t manage to get it signed.

The second support act comes from Blancmange (who my boyfriend was very excited to see live) who were formed in 1979 and is made up of singer Neil Arthur and instrumentalists Stephen Luscombe. There biggest hits (which despite being a massive fan of the 80s I seemed to miss) included “Living on the Ceiling” and “Don’t Tell Me” before the band split in 1986 (though happily reformed to support The Human League thirty years later and release their new album “Commuter 23”). Neil Arthur’s singing voice is rough Northern almost meets operatic with darker lyrics and beats that reminded my boyfriend of early Joy Division.

But of course the night was all about the main Human League set, which despite Phil’s interesting taste in sleeveless jackets, is possibly my favourite set from them yet (even though not in the front row this time) and had me standing up, bopping and singing along throughout. The band’s love of screens was taken to new levels with its split lifting to conceal the musicians behind and the girls looked glamorous as ever and on top form creating an incredible and uplifting atmosphere in the arena. We can also forgive Phil for saying the band had run out of hits before they even got to “Don’t You Want Me”.

My list of song highlights is massive, loving the rare performances of “Soundtrack to a Generation” (felt like I was the only audience member who knew ever word), “Filling Up With Heaven” and “Stay With Me Tonight” (my much welcomed ear worm when I woke up this morning), “One Man in My Heart” proving the girls can happily hold their own, the always crowd pleasing “The Sound of the Crowd”, “Open Your Heart” and “Tell Me When” and “Together in Electric Dreams” (which left me slightly less emotional than usual as I knew I was heading home afterwards with my lovely man.

Although there are still 10 nights left of The Human League’s tour, at the time of writing all but two are sold out but if you aren’t lucky enough to get tickets or are looking for an early Christmas present I’d happily recommend the band’s newly released anthology, details of which can be found on their website, and which is a must for all fans.

15 thoughts on “Human League – 3 December 2016, Steel Hall, Sheffield

  1. We’ve seen them many times. Disappointed that they never do more from Crash. Highlights for me were the usual Seconds, Being Boiled and Things that dreams are made of. Would always like to hear more off the Travelogue and Reproduction. The ‘slide show’ has always been good and is part of the experience given the slides etc used in the olden days.

    Thought Blancmange were very good. Worth it for the opening song, their splendid version of ABBA’s Day Before You Came.

  2. My husband and I were at the concert last night and we loved it! I’ve been a fan for many years since I was 13 years old and when the first song started I was transported back to that age with my lop sided haircut and pointy boots from ribena. The whole show and all three bands were on top form and we came away very happy xx

  3. Is there any chance you can give a set list for Ekkoes and Blancmange?!? Going to see the concert in Brighton on Friday and I’d really like to know what to expect!!

    1. Ekkoes are responding very quick on Twitter and Facebook so recommend contacting them through there for setlist. Am also in the process of interviewing them for this website so look out for that. Website i always check out for setlists (saves me scribbling them down during the gig) is http://www.setlist.fm/

  4. Erm…not quite the only one who knew all the lyrics!! Me too😄 However, a great review of a great night…enjoyed the read. Thank you. ❤️THL

    1. You are not alone – I was really happy that they included Soundtrack to a Generation last night.
      I know all the lyrics too – and that phrase definitely resonates with me too
      Absolutely brilliant – Phil’s voice never fails to thrill to the core (and he is still easy on the eye!) x x

  5. Great review. I personally didn’t know Soundtrack to a Generation so listened to it on youtube and wasn’t keen. Maybe it will grow on me before the Nottingham show. Super set list though and can’t wait. Pity Blancmange aren’t support in Nottingham. That would have been the icing on the cake!

  6. “Supported by a group of musicians whose names are instantly forgotten the minute they are introduced (sorry!!)”

    Credit must be given to Neil Sutton, who has been a part of the band since around the Crash era (1986 or so). He’s been a major part of their songwriting and production work to date. Though he’s not as well known as Phil, Suzanne and Joanne, he’s a major part of the Human League.

    With regards to Crash, Phil has mentioned in interviews that it was hard to make it a League album as the production team, Jam and Lewis, pretty much pushed their own sound and style on it. I have to agree, and it’s my least favourite of all the League albums. The album that SHOULD get more songs played from it is “Secrets”. A blistering album of fantastic songs, that was criminally underrated.

  7. I went to Sheffield concert last night. And absolutely loved it. Phil & Susan were fantastic. Joanne looked a little uncomfortable. But did not spoil tperformance one bit. You see bands live and don’t sound as good as they used to, but not human league. They sounded just as good as they did back in the 80’s. Was buzzing for hours after.
    I hope to go when they are back in town. Loved, loved loved them.

  8. Great gig,took me back 35 yrs,
    Can’t believe how far Phil walks during the set
    Still got the voice and sound
    Can’t believe he’s 61

  9. Hear THL has always been my dream, but they do not come to Russia. Now I was able to see them live in Berlin and I am happy ))!

  10. Seeing the human league again in manchester was the best night I have had in years it really took me back to 1980 when I saw them at the apollo just after the girls had joined but they have had more hits since then which I loved also they are a great band and will remember that night for a long time I hope they will be at rewind

  11. Saw them at Brighton last night , sounding and looking as good as ever. Agree with Mark, would loved to have had a couple pre Dare to replace the sugary one man in my heart, Louise and stay with me tonight.
    Loved the big Being Boiled opener and awesome Seconds
    Blancmange were excellent and Neil Arthur on top form.

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