The Human League – Red Tour 2018 – Southend Cliffs Pavilion, 1st night of the UK leg of their Red tour.
Tonight’s gig was supported by Midge Ure’s band ‘Electronica’. A nice surprise actually. Midge did a 45-minute supported by his Electronica band, dressed all in black. Uncannily Midge and his drummer look like they were separated at birth, whilst the keyboard and guitarist look at least half his age. The entertaining slot contained a mix of his solo stuff and Ultravox greatest hits, of which I knew most songs but had forgotten them in the mists of time. And I learnt that he wrote ‘Fade to Grey’ for Visage. These are the songs I remember:
- I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)
- Fade to Grey
- All Stood Still
- Dancing with Tears in My Eyes
- Love’s Great Adventure
Some nice guitar licks, pounding electro beats and an upbeat Midge. All in all a good start to the evening – unlike the bloody traffic getting into Southend – queuing from M25!
Phil has been at it since the group’s inception in 1977 in Sheffield. Nowadays it’s effectively a trio of Philip plus Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley. Phil, the only original member of ‘The Human League’, these days is bald with an interesting line in goatie. As usual he knows how to wear designer cloths and look good, his tall slim svelte frame accentuating the numerous fancy costume changes throughout the night.
Tonight, Phil has the girls either side of him and the band mainly located within a square modular design (borrowing from the ‘Pet Shop Boys’ and recent ‘New Order’ style stage design). It’s all covered in sheeting and enables the lighting and special effects to bathe warm neon lights or bounce around to the rhythm of the sounds. It all very hi-tech – gleaming white stands for the Roland keyboards (detachable guitar style keytar ones at that) and electronic drum kit. All supported by the nowadays ubiquitous computers running the show and background sounds.
My only complaint is that during a couple of songs the spots really hit the standing audience full on so frequently that it was impossible to see the stage without being temporarily blinded.
Phil walks on to a crescendo applause wearing a transparent sleeveless PVC coat (see further down for a description of the band clothes) with dark shades and launches into “The Sound of the Crowd” – which we knew was coming as the band had already being playing a long intro into it. The girls are made up to the hilt in the make up stakes (layered on). Susan starts off looking like a cross between Princess Leia from Star Wars and a pantomime drag queen. Her hair is in a large bun which she later informs us is due to some backstage hair alchemy going wrong. Black eyes, rep lippy and long diamante earrings.
Surprisingly his voice is as it always was, he still hits the right notes which is more than can be said for Susan and Joanne. Phil does the majority of vocal duties tonight, which the exception of Susan singing “One Man in My Heart”. Alas, she can’t hold a tune to save her life, but she more than makes up for it with her enthusiasm, dancing and stage presence.
He might be getting on a bit but blimey he’s like a jack-in-the-box moving around the stage barely staying still at any point bar the odd slow song. This is totally the opposite of Joanne who looked uninterested throughout, grumpy even. Occasionally she’d lift an arm, move a leg, swivel the hips, walk about and sing backing vocals. She even made her no doubt expensive outfits look drab in total comparison to the exuberant in your face loving it Susan to her right. I’m not really sure what she adds to the band apart that she comes with the fixtures and fittings.
The majority of songs tonight are from their 80’s purple patch period and especially the LP ‘Dare’. They are nicely interspersed with a smattering of post 90’s tunes such as “Night People” and “Tell Me When”. In truth they do have a solid catalogue of gold to call upon.
The Costume changes
- Sleeveless PVC see through raincoat with half a tartan kilt on his right hip and trousers finishing half way down his calf.
- All in black, PVC jacket again!
- All in black with a nice shortened bomber jacket with white stretch band, which he took off to reveal an excellent top with white sleeves emblazoned with diamante patches.
- A dark grey pinstripe suit with embroidered pattern sleeves.
- And to finish white trousers and a sleeveless shirt (orange front and white back)
OK Phil – where do you get this gear – Gaultier?
- White dress/cape combo with flowing sleeves.
- Black sleeveless dress.
- Short black dress with cape and silver boots.
- White long skirt with white sleeveless basque style top.
- Long black skirt with black sleeveless top.
- Weird black cabaret style velvet top and short glitter skirt combo with flowing sleeves and a crown.
My personal favourite of the night was their rendition of “Behind the Mask” by the Japanese band ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’. It was so much better than the original version! I’d completely forgotten this catchy classic and it really got the crowd waving and moving to the beat. The crowd by the way was mainly couples and groups of ladies I’d say 40-60 age bracket, reliving their 80 heydays with a bit of nostalgia. ‘Seconds’ also got me thinking about the lyrics, not just a vacuous electro pop band after all.
Setlist (Click links to watch videos on YouTube)
- The Sound of the Crowd (Dare, 1981)
- Mirror Man (Dare, 1981)
- Heart Like a Wheel (Romantic?, 1990)
- The Things That Dreams Are Made Of (Dare, 1981)
- Night People (Credo, 2011)
- Seconds (Dare, 1981)
- The Lebanon (Hysteria, 1984)
- One Man in My Heart (Octopus, 1995) – Susan solo
- Louise (Hysteria, 1984)
- Human (Crash, 1986)
- Open Your Heart (Dare, 1981)
- Behind the Mask (Yellow Magic Orchestra cover, 1979)
- Love Action (I Believe in Love) (Dare, 1981)
- All I Ever Wanted (Secrets, 2001)
- Tell Me When (Octopus, 1995)
- (Keep Feeling) Fascination (Fascination!, 1983)
- Don’t You Want Me (Dare, 1981)
- Being Boiled (Reproduction, 1979)
- Together in Electric Dreams (Phil Oakey/Giorgio Moroder 1984)
Loads of classic songs left the audience little room for any complaints. They knew all the words and on numerous occasions just burst into life singing the songs for Phil (e.g. Louise) and especially for the ‘Don’t You Want Me’ where both verses and chorus were sung with almighty glee before Phil had even got back on stage after yet another costume change. The encore took us back to the beginning with their 1st single ‘Being Boiled’ and then to top it off Phil’s 1984 disco style collaboration with Giorgio Moroder ‘Together in Electric Dreams’.
And that ladies and gentlemen was that. House lights on, giant smiles firmly in place, quick sing-along on the way out and a scramble to the bar and cloak rooms.
Don’t you want me baby? oh-go on then Phil!
Reviewed by Marko [22 Nov 2018]
PS – they know their crowd, the merch stall was selling mugs and tea towels 😊