Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Film & TV

Review | The Human League prove they’re still one of the greatest live bands of our time

All killer and no filler as Britain’s electro pop icons conclude their 2018 tour

By Steve Brown

Words: Darren Scott

There are two types of people in the world. Those that sing to Phil Oakey’s vocals and those who instinctively join in with those of Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall.

We were definitely the latter as synth-pop legends The Human League brought their Red Live 2018 tour to a close in London’s Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday night.

Continuing their no-nonsense, streamlined and stylish performances, the band took to the stage dressed in white – Phil in a full-length plastic coat, Susan in a trouser suit with wings that would see a lot of waving, and Joanne in a stunning corset.

They took up positions in front of microphone stands that would barely move for the evening, such is the beauty of not having to rely on anything else but a bloody good show.

The crowd took to their feet from the opening cords of Sound of the Crowd and didn’t sit down until Together In Electric Dreams, 19 songs later.

It now feels like it wouldn’t be Christmas without an annual tour from The Human League and although they have a ridiculously solid set of hits, they always mix it up and bring something new to the party.

This time it’s their 90s cover of Behind The Mask. Originally a song by Yellow Magic Orchestra, Phil tells the crowd they released it on a Japanese label that immediately went bankrupt – then a cover of the song by Michael Jackson (recorded during the Thriller sessions) was later released.

But this arrangement is, as they say, an absolute banger. Much angrier and synth-heavier than their original version, it’s absolutely brilliant and you get the feeling this is yet another song from their back catalogue that should’ve been much bigger.

Speaking of which – their last album, 2011’s masterpiece Credo, sadly only gets one outing with lead single, Night People. The same goes for 2001’s Secrets, with All I Ever Wanted.

Otherwise it’s business as usual, with underrated classic Heart Like A Wheel always a winning live performance, and lyrics from The Lebanon flashing up on the minimal yet effective cube-based set design.

Don’t You Want Me getting everyone singing both parts – yes, even us. Susan holds the microphone towards the audience, puts her hand to her ear and the sell-out crowd screams back: “I STILL LOVE YOU!”

It’s obvious they do, and the band soon make an emotional goodbye as the night – and the tour – comes to a close.

It’s over all too soon, but they’ve got dates throughout 2019, including headlining Camp Bestival alongside Jess Glynne.

Now, about that elusive new album…

Rating: 4*

For upcoming tour dates visit their website.