With a stage set straight out of Tron, all slick white and angular and neon-lit, the night’s trajectory was plain. The Human League, comprised of original members Philip Oakey, Joanne Catherall, Susan Ann Sulley, along with three other additional musicians, still present the neo-synth style with as much grasp on it and its effectiveness as ever. However, the beauty of the band stretches well beyond that. They continue inhabit the avant-garde, electronic synth movement with no hint of sarcasm or datedness, the band are still crazy cool in that role and their music hasn’t aged. At all. They are just as glamorous (as evidenced by the many costume changes), just as technically en pointe, just as sleek and deliver a simply great performance.
With a set list based somewhat chronologically, including all of the highlights in their catalogue, it was sort of walk through one’s early years, when you are, ahem, a little older. And the gracious frontman Oakley, ever the showman and never shying away from fashion risks, looked the part throughout. Invoking styled days of old in his range of ensembles all through their set consisting of a leather jerkin and half kilt, to his later sequin fitted top to the then quite dapper, structured black overcoat. Because, the history of the band is quite banked in their look as well. The two elements were fundamental to each other. Oakley always pushed his look, establishing he wasn’t afraid of experimenting, with either their sound or his own presentation, it was the genesis of separating The Human League from the all other New Romantics in the synth evolution of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Nothing was off limits and it was pioneering at the time, both musically and stylistically, a time of beauty and glorious glamour that followed the roughness of the punk era that proceeded it.
They are indeed an ‘Electric Dream (s)’ (the song which they ended the night on), fully futuristic, hinting towards a sonic destiny, which was yet unknown at the time they started out. Vocally all still shimmering with clean, tight and structured delivery, their songs continually providing a mecca to inhabit and conjuring something slightly otherworldly bordering on escapist, right through every song. Their music gives a subtle nod to the industrial, especially in their earlier work, but always transporting and transcending time, allowing everyone to linger in the gorgeous, electronic musical cosmos they crafted and now maintain effortlessly.
Keep up with the band on Twitter here.
Photos Courtesy of ©PremiumPhotographic
- Haircut 100, Cambridge Corn Exchange – Gig Review - November 14, 2023
- Cambridge Folk Festival 2023 – Gig Review - August 4, 2023
- Interview with Gangstagrass at The Cambridge Folk Festival - August 3, 2023