Category: Live Reports (Page 1 of 34)

SOFT CELL Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret Live In London

1981 was a sensational year for electronic pop music and along with albums from THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JAPAN, KRAFTWERK and OMD, SOFT CELL’s ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ was among the best.

Despite a farewell show at London’s O2 Arena in 2018, Marc Almond and Dave Ball decided a 40th Anniversary tour of that classic album was in order, along with a brand new long player ‘*Happiness Not Included’ to be released at the start of 2022.

As one of the most subversive acts in popular culture, SOFT CELL found themselves part of a celebrity world after the unexpected success of their breakthrough single ‘Tainted Love’; escaping to New York to record and mix their debut album, they found themselves the toast of The Big Apple, mingling with the likes of Divine, Madonna and Andy Warhol in the city’s hedonistic club scene.

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is a document of that period which also contained narratives on dirty old men, prostitution, grooming, sexual deviance, personal grievance, tabloid sensationalism, political scandal, middle class entitlement and living in squalor.

But this tour was not just about 40 years of ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ but also SOFT CELL in the present day. After opening with the 1982 No2 hit ‘Torch’, Almond and Ball showcased several songs from ‘*Happiness Not Included’.

Although ‘Bruises on All My Illusions’ and ‘Heart Like Chernobyl’ had already been premiered on streaming platforms, the new record’s promise was outlined with the cinematic drama of ‘Happy Happy Happy’ and the tense Italo Noir of the ironically titled ‘Nostalgia Machine’.

‘Monoculture’ reflected on the first SOFT CELL reunion of the early 21st Century, but the evening was also an opportunity to perform a few songs that were not part of The O2 extravaganza. Most welcome was the glorious ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ with its tale of a bored lonely housewife and her growing dependency, while the Latin-flavoured goth of ‘L’esqualita’ and the exhilarating electro-schaffel of ‘Divided Soul’ also got deserved airings.

However, ‘Where the Heart Is’, ‘The Art of Falling Apart’ and ‘Martin’ provided points of familiarity for Cellmates to end Act 1, with Ball providing a particularly blistering Eno-esque solo to the sophomore album title song.

Throughout this first half of the show, the audience appeared confused as to whether to get up and dance, resulting in perhaps a more muted response than Almond would have liked. But that was all remedied for Act 2 when the curtain went up for a live run through of ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ in its entirety and in order.

With original autobiographical lyrics by Dave Ball about his own father, ‘Frustration’ was the magnificent opener to ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ and its embodiment of suburban middle aged angst still resonates today. The positioning of ‘Tainted Love’ though so early in the set only highlighted the brilliance of the other nine songs on the album.

The smooth sleaze of ‘Seedy Films’ was enhanced by Gary Barnacle on sax who toured with SOFT CELL back in the day and projections of Soho’s sex industry neon signs.

Billie Godfrey alluringly deputised for Josie Warden of VICIOUS PINK PHENOMENA’s role before Almond cheekily asked the remaining backing singers Louise Marshall, Bryan Chambers and Simon King “Isn’t that YOU on the screen?”

After a poignant ‘Youth’ visualised by vintage home movie footage, a mighty ‘Sex Dwarf’ blasted forth accompanied by cued crowd screams. Things were going well but it got even better with ‘Entertain Me’ and ‘Chips On My Shoulder’, both chant-friendly highlights from ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ that got the now warmed-up crowd hoarse and allowed Almond to indulge in his performance art energetics. Then there was an ecstatic treat in the extended Early Morning Dance Side version of ‘Bedsitter’, complete with rap to start the nightlife over again.

Whether it has been John Profumo, Jeremy Thorpe, Cecil Parkinson, Jeffrey Archer, David Mellor, Paddy Ashdown or Matt Hancock, the superb Northern Soul tinged ‘Secret Life’ captured the continuing spectre of the British political sex scandal while on the same subject, the evergreen melodramatics of ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ provided a magnificent Act 2 conclusion with the final chorus sung entirely by all present.

The encore allowed for another newbie in the catchy ERASURE sounding ‘Purple Zone’, by far the most convincing song from ‘*Happiness Not Included’, before ‘Memorabilia’ provided the end of night dance off with Almond joining Ball in his synth complex to wave goodbye.

Saying hello, waving goodbye and saying hello again, SOFT CELL have more than demonstrated their four decade longevity

Despite a slow start from the mature crowd, it was eventually a fine night of dancing, laughing, drinking and loving. There was no standing alone at The Pink Flamingo tonight or crying in the rain.


Special thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is still available via Universal Music in various formats from the usual retailers

The new SOFT CELL album ‘*Happiness Not Included’ is released on 25th February 2022 via BMG, pre-order from https://softcell.tmstor.es/

http://www.softcell.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/softcellband/

https://twitter.com/softcellhq

https://www.instagram.com/softcellhq/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
16th November 2021

RODNEY CROMWELL + MOOD TAEG Live at The Hope & Anchor

With Alice Hubble on DJ duties, the Hope & Anchor in Islington was the location for a Happy Robots Records family gathering that hosted the live return of label CEO Adam Cresswell in his Theatername of Rodney Cromwell and the debut gig of MOOD TAEG.

With his second Rodney Cromwell entitled ‘Memory Box’ now in the can and set to be unleased in Spring 2022, Cresswell and his band were keen to road test its contents in front of a receptive audience.

But for MOOD TAEG, it was a step into the unknown. The project comprising the enigmatic Düsseldorf pair of TDK and K’ko plus the absent Shanghai-based Lowell Freeman had never been conceived for live performance, but acclaim for the debut long player ‘Exophora’ and interest in its newly released follow-up ‘Anaphora’ has sparked demand.

However, nerves were undoubtedly kicking in, but after a few technical glitches were resolved, MOOD TAEG finally got the motorik on the move with ‘Deictics’ from ‘Exophora’ recalling the cosmic adventures of yore with a mind bending effect.

From ‘Anaphora’, ‘Happiness Fragment’ developed on its rhythmic groove with a pentatonic synthbass mantra although there were a few iffy moments on TDK’s borrowed guitar as it pierced the speakers on occasion.

But for the HARMONIA inspired ‘Ohrwurm’, there was a move away from Apache beats with K’ko augmenting on violin. Ending with an appropriate musical homage to Michael Rother, ‘2MR’ offered 10 minutes of Motorik Durch Technik as they say in Düsseldorf in the vein of NEU!

Understandably since last performing 2 years ago, Rodney Cromwell was a bit stage rusty with a few leads left unplugged, but tonight was about embracing the fear and exorcising the ‘Age Of Anxiety’. Cresswell took some joy in reminding the almost full venue that when JOY DIVISION played the Hope & Anchor in December 1978, only three people turned up!

Recalling ‘Tanzmusik’ from ‘KRAFTWERK’s ‘Ralf & Florian’ album, ‘Cloud Catalogue’ from ‘Memory Box’ opened the set. While this delightful instrumental was quite cheery, the new album looks at the social and political tribulations of the past few years. Intended as a soundtrack to a sadly post truth world, it is very different to the melancholic but upbeat synthpop sensibility of ‘Age Of Anxiety’.

In a month that has ironically seen some of those who have been moaning about fake news on mainstream media also celebrating the 40th Anniversary of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak & Spell’ album on the incorrect date of 5th October, the ‘Memory Box’ title song’s release as a single has been timely.

The hazy but appealing metronomic number reflects in Cresswell’s own words on “how do we believe anything in a world where truth and honesty are of so little worth?”.

There was a comparatively lighter moment with the pulsating fan favourite ‘Black Dog’ given the harmonics treatment by guitarist Richard Salt, but the grim moods of ‘Fluctuations’ were made more haunting by the spacey keyboard swirls of Martin J Langthorne.

But Cresswell brought his Stylophone, along with his best Bernard Sumner impression for the premiere of ‘Opus Three’, Rodney Cromwell’s very own ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ if ever there was one, although the tribute perhaps isn’t quite as blatant as NATION OF LANGUAGE’s ‘On Division Street’! To finish the main part of the set, Rodney Cromwell and his band of not-so-merry men formed a melodica orchestra for the sombre wordless newbie ‘Calculations’.

Remaining on stage, Cresswell shouted “Do you want an encore?” to acknowledge the pretence of that accepted walk off practice. As he got into this spirit of showmanship with some Citizen Smith cosplay, appropriately it was ‘Barry Was An Arms Dealer’ that was the oldie that got dusted off while the more recent vocodered ‘Comrades’ concluded the evening.

While at times, both acts appeared a bit shaky and lost with long pauses between songs like on NEW ORDER’s ‘Taras Shevchenko’ live video, everyone including the audience just appeared to be happy be out mingling again. Music was what got many through the last 18 months and as times are still uncertain, music in its live variant will help to get everyone through the next year and a half.


The new Rodney Cromwell album ‘Memory Box’ is released by Happy Robots Records on 18th March 2022, the single of the same name is available now as a download from https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/rodney-cromwell

https://www.facebook.com/rodneycromwellartist/

https://twitter.com/robot_rocker

https://www.instagram.com/rodney_cromwell/

MOOD TAEG’s ‘Anaphora’ is released by Happy Robots Records in vinyl LP and digital formats, available now direct from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/mood-taeg-anaphora-12-coloured-lp-bot24

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/mood-taeg

https://www.facebook.com/MoodTag/

https://twitter.com/MoodTaeg

https://www.instagram.com/moodtaeg/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
30th October 2021

ALICE HUBBLE + HATTIE COOKE Live at Folklore

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

At Folklore in London’s trendy Hoxton district, promoter Baba Yaga’s Hut gathered two of the UK’s most talented synth ladies for an intimate evening of live performance.

While both exhibit an earthy plaintive approach vocally, technologically they sit at quite different sides of the spectrum.

For Alice Hubble, the analogue warmth of vintage keyboards has always been a key DNA constituent of her sound.

To launch her second solo long player ‘Hexentanzplatz’, she had her trusty Moog Prodigy as part of an expanded live set-up also featuring Tom Hilverkus on the small but mighty Yamaha Reface CS mini-keyboard and Nord Lead 3. But for Hattie Cooke who uses just GarageBand for her take on synth, it was a MacBook with backing tracks and lyrics that augmented her first live performance for over two years. Hailed as one of the best new talents in Britain, despite the release of her third album ‘Bliss Land’, she had never played live in the capital before.

Beginning with a sat down solo guitar take of ‘One Foot Out The Door’, a tinge of folk illustrated its roots but also how it was more or less structured before electronic textured for ‘Bliss Land’. Standing up after this sedate start, Hattie got upbeat and electronic with the glorious ‘I Get By’, a song that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Italians Do It Better catalogue. She amusingly added that her more recent electronic pop material was “less suicidal” than her previous work; “I’ve always been a hoot” she quipped, “but I wasn’t so happy back then…” – the forlorn strum of the semi-ironic ‘Happy Today’ from her self-titled debut record was a sign of how far she had moved on.

Photo by Adrian Hextall

Cooke promised jokes and her one about Dr Who having Dalek bread as a side order to pizza highlighted her charm. Although tinged with melancholy, songs such as drum machine dominated ‘Lovers Game’ and the much sparser ‘Summer Time’ use appealing arrangements that harmonise well with her voice.

Her focus on writing songs first has set her apart from the boys with their toys whose equipment is used as the excuse for the songs rather than the other way round.

The mechanised tension ‘Mistaken’ offered Hattie’s own quirky interpretation of a dancefloor filler before closing with the reflective ‘Youth’. Although Hattie Cooke has more aurally expansive in her productions, she might have benefitted from undertaking some live synth soloing during the instrumental sections as she looked slightly lost during these moments; in her delightful stage banter, she did admit to forgetting to pack the correct lead for it. There is room for improvement in the live presentation so as her audiences grow, she could do a lot worse than to follow the lead of the evening’s headliner.

Alice Hubble opened her longest live set to date with the watery wash of ‘West Reservoir’, while visually enhanced by shades of misty red and billowing smoke. The wonderful ‘My Dear Friend’ provided a touching ode to Alice’s late parents while the synthetic glam of ‘Kick The Habit’ was boosted by bursts of the Prodigy, the synth, not the band; this classic Moog also provided some further elegiac resonance to ‘Goddess’, a number that became a favourite of BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq at the time of its release in 2019.

Photo by Adrian Hextall

Dreamy Mellotron tines and more Moog Prodigy bedded the rousing indie synthpop of ‘Projections’, the undoubted standout of the ‘Hexentanzplatz’ opus, while the strident title track and ‘Power Play’ pointed to the weightier developments in the Alice Hubble sound, both musically and lyrically.

The progressively constructed ‘Still’ from ‘Polarlichter’ came over as spacey as ever before the motorised soundscape of ‘Gliechfalls’ acted as an exhilarating cosmic jam to finish.

One notable absentee from the set was ‘We Are Still Alone’, the best song on ‘Polarlichter’ and its presence would have been more preferable to the lengthy instrumental ‘Atlantis Palm’ which although a beautiful album, unnecessarily stalled momentum mid-show. But minor quibbles aside, it was an entertaining show that even prompted energetic dancing from a young hipster couple new to Alice Hubble and who enthusiastically visited the merch stand afterwards.

Electronic pop may not ever hit the mainstream heights of 1981 again although four decades on, its understated feminine variant is making its presence felt in the enchanting songs of Alice Hubble and Hattie Cooke.


Alice Hubble’s ‘Hexentanzplatz’ is released by Happy Robots Records in vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/hexentanzplatz

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble

https://www.facebook.com/alicehubblemusic/

https://twitter.com/alice_hubble

https://www.instagram.com/alice_hubble/

Hattie Cooke’s ‘Bliss Land’ is released by Castles In Space in CD, red vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://hattiecooke-cis.bandcamp.com/

https://www.patreon.com/Hattiecooke

https://www.facebook.com/hattiecookemusic

https://twitter.com/hattiecooke

https://www.instagram.com/hattiecookemusic/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th October 2021

BLANCMANGE + HEARTBREAK Live in Tunbridge Wells

The leafy Kent town of Royal Tunbridge Wells was the location for first night of the BLANCMANGE tour rescheduled from 2020.

Originally intended to coincide with the 12th full length BLANCMANGE long player ‘Mindset’, Neil Arthur recorded another album ‘Commercial Break’ during lockdown while also preparing a soon-to-be-released collaboration with Finlay Shakespeare who will be the support act from Colchester Arts Centre onwards.

But tonight at The Forum, which was chosen to be a sort of warm-up to get BLANCMANGE back into the ritual of live performance after a gap of almost two years, the opening act was the energetic Anglo-Argentine electro duo HEARTBREAK. Comprising of charismatic vocalist Sebastian Muravchik and thoughtful instrumentalist Ali Renault, HEARTBREAK toured with the likes of LA ROUX and LITTLE BOOTS in support of their 2008 debut album ‘Lies’ before they went into hiatus for nearly a decade and re-emerging in 2018.

Muravchik has been making music as SNS SENSATION while Renault recently issued an instrumental solo mini-album ‘Nawce Blizzard’, but there is a new HEARTBREAK album on the way and it was with one of the new numbers ‘1888’ that they began their uptempo set. From ‘Lies’ came the modern Italo romp of ‘Akin to Dancing’ and the falsetto charged ‘Regret’ before Muravchik announced how the fall out between himself and Renault (which put HEARTBREAK on the backburner) had been channelled into another new song called ‘This Battle’.

Having regrown his moustache especially for this occasion, Muravchik busted some Latin lothario moves and beckoned the now warmed up audience to dance to HEARTBREAK’s appropriately titled signature song ‘We’re Back’ and the frenzied ‘My Tears Electro’.

The most enthusiastic of the participants was undoubtedly Renault’s primary school aged daughter who was totally thrilled with seeing her father perform for the very first time and assiting on vocoder.

To very bright stage lights, long standing BLANCMANGE live keyboardist Ogoo Maia and electronic percussionist Liam Hutton took their places as they awaited the arrival of Neil Arthur to launch into the ‘Mange Tout’ favourite ‘Game Above My Head’.

With a set divided equally divided between classic material and 21st Century BLANCMANGE works, the marvellous robopop of ‘In Your Room’ from 2018’s ‘Wanderlust’ and songs off the ‘Mindset’ album, such as the title song and ‘Clean Your House’, showed that Arthur was still pushing forward artistically. But surprises also came with the 1985 single ‘What’s Your Problem?’ and ‘I Prefer Solitude’ from the FADER collaboration with producer Benge.

‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Waves’ and ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ highlighted that for those in attendance, the 1982 debut ‘Happy Families’ is still a record held with great affection by many while there was also space for the topical wordplay of ‘This A State’ from the upcoming ‘Commercial Break’ album.

However, during a lone ivory version of ‘The Day Before You Came’, Arthur got knocked off focus by those who were talking quite loudly during this key set-piece.

Asking Maia to stop, the Lancastrian made his thoughts known in his deep dry tone about the lingering chitter-chatter and said he would prefer it if people sang along instead. This prompted some to visit azlyrics.com on their phones and as Arthur continued with his rendition of his favourite ABBA song, he had to contain his laughter as most present joined in!

Heading for the home straight, ‘Living On The Ceiling’ prompted the now-customary massed chant of the song’s main instrumental while ‘Feel Me’ and ‘Blind Vision’ closed proceedings with a welcome Saturday night disco. “It’s been hard work in rehearsals and the first show proper after around 2 years is quite a challenge” Neil Arthur said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK afterwards, “In a good way.”

As the most prolific artist of the Synth Britannia generation and one who has toured every year since as BLANCMANGE’s comeback in 2011 up to and including 2019, Neil Arthur’s return to the live stage is an important symbol that gives hope after a difficult 21 months.

Certainly those present at The Forum seemed happy to be out with their friends for some live music and a drink or three, even if not all were necessarily paying attention to what they had paid their hard earned money to see.


With thanks to Joe Pidgeon at AGMP and Chris Pritchard at The Forum

‘Commercial Break’ is released by Blanc Check on 17th September 2021 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from http://blancmange.tmstor.es/

BLANCMANGE 2021 live dates include:

Colchester Arts Centre (16th September), Norwich Arts Centre (17th September), Birmingham Institute 2 (18th September), Gloucester Guild Hall (23rd September), Exeter Phoenix (24th September), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (25th September), Blackburn King George’s Hall (29th September), Newcastle Riverside (30th September), Edinburgh Liquid Room (1st October), Glasgow Oran Mor (2nd October), Southampton The Brook (13th October), Bristol Fleece (14th October), Northampton Roadmender (22nd October), Manchester Club Academy (27th October), Leeds The Wardrobe (28th October), Liverpool Grand Central Hall (29th October), Brighton Concorde 2 (17th November), Harpenden Public Halls (18th November), Cardiff Portland House (25th November), London Under The Bridge (26th November), Shrewsbury Buttermarket (27th November)

BLANCMANGE will also be opening for ERASURE on 17th October 2021 and London O2 Arena

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_

https://www.instagram.com/blancmange_music/

https://www.facebook.com/Heartbreak-14224761975


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
13th September 2021

HEAVEN 17 Reproduction + Travelogue Live at The Roundhouse

Photo by Simon Helm

Having been mooted for several years and postponed twice, HEAVEN 17 finally delivered their 40th anniversary celebration of THE HUMAN LEAGUE albums ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’.

“We’re not pretending we were reforming THE HUMAN LEAGUE, all the publicity states this is HEAVEN 17’s interpretation of those two albums” said Martyn Ware, “As you well know, I was the major writer on most of those tracks. I always felt they deserved a wider audience, hence why we’ve played a lot of those songs live with HEAVEN 17 anyway.” Although it was Fast Product that released the first version of ‘Being Boiled’ in June 1978,  Virgin Records, under the A&R directorship of Simon Draper, had the foresight to see the wider potential of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s sound containing synthesizers and vocals only.

But how important are these two records in the development of pop music using synthesizers? Using the Roland System 100, Korg 700s, Roland Jupiter 4 and Korg 770, ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’ are certainly up there with landmark British albums such as ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’, ‘Metamatic’ and ‘Vienna’, while a case can definitely be made that they are on a par with international works such as ‘No1 In Heaven’ and ‘Die Mensch-Maschine’.

Former member of both THE HUMAN LEAGUE and HEAVEN 17 Ian Craig Marsh once imitated the deep voice of Seiko watches on an early demo and declared “THE HUMAN LEAGUE, one day all music will be made like this…” and it all turned out to be rather prophetic. Deputising tonight at The Roundhouse for the long absent Marsh, alongside Ware and HEAVEN 17 front man Glenn Gregory, was keyboardist Flo Sabeva, while acting as Director Of Visuals in place of Adrian Wright was Assorted iMaGes design director Malcolm Garrett.

Using a four screen ‘Reproduction’ of the album’s inner bag as the stage set, synths-wise, Ware had his Roland trusty V-Synth GT at his disposal alongside a vintage Roland System 100, mini-Korg 700s and a Jupiter 4 on loan from Irish synth artist CIRCUIT3. Meanwhile, Sabeva kept the tech up-to-date with her Fantom 6 and System 8 arsenal from Roland.

The aggressive synth-punk of ‘Almost Medieval’, naturally opened proceedings while the harrowing ‘Circus Of Death’ following, both displaying a thoughtful ‘Reproduction’ of the percussive System 100 dynamics. A rallying call to rebel against conformity, ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’ was as relevant as ever while fun came on ‘Blind Youth’, summing up another sad observation that could be applied today, especially with its known anti-Covid vaccine elements.

The Schaffel nursery rhyme of ‘Empire State Human still came over as the mighty hit it never was, illustrated by world monuments and the achievements of the US and Soviet space programmes. Using the System 100 for its lonely sequence, ‘Morale’ segued seamlessly into the ring modulated tick-tock of ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ with Gregory and Ware doing their familiar Righton Brothers duet, to convey the eerie soundtrack’s desolate emptiness.

As the fierce acceleration of ‘Zero As A Limit’ climaxed the ‘Reproduction’ section of the show, the ‘Travelogue’ part was introduced by the harsh screeching frequencies of ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ as it all went up another gear with this still entertainingly humorous Sci-Fi story about an infinite chart topper. Meanwhile, the minimal synth rendition of Mick Ronson’s ‘Only After Dark’ prompted an audience chantalong while the under-rated ‘Life Kills’ proved to be something of an electronic pop evergreen

But it was all hush for the poignant prog synth of ‘Dreams Of Leaving’; with a narrative about the traumatic escape of refugees who then try to settle into a new home, the alignment of sad, happy, fast, slow with its uplifting pipe-pitched climax was proof that 40 years on, emotional responses can still come from the machines of Roland and her sisters.

For the instrumentals ‘Toyota City’ and Jeff Wayne’s ‘Gordon’s Gin’, Gregory took his place on a Sequential Prophet 6 but as backing singers Rachel Meadows Hayley and Hayley Williams joined in and danced to the vicious backbone of ‘Crow & A Baby’, it wasn’t difficult to imagine this number as a prototype of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’; squinting from the balcony, it could even have looked like “Phil, Joanne and Susan” were on stage!

An epic synth reimagination of PARLIAMENT and FUNKADELIC, the reworked ‘Being Boiled 2.0’ with Phil Oakey’s surreal lyrics about the extermination of silk worms never sounded so glorious and further memories of the mature audience were triggered by the incongruous but effective use of slides featuring characters from Gerry Anderson’s iconic Supermarionation shows ‘Fireball XL5’, ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Joe 90’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’.

A dystopian song about the mechanisation of radio stations which inadvertently predicted the Spotify playlist, ‘WXJL Tonight’ closed the ‘Travelogue’ section with Gregory adding the tones of Neil Diamond to his delivery.

But the evening was not over yet as tracks from the companion ‘Holiday 80’ EP were aired. The stupendous ‘Marianne’ with its three part vocal counterpoint and multiple harmonies over its crashing rhythmic barrage was worth the ticket price along while Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s ‘Nightclubbing’ somehow got an even more sinister funereal treatment.

But then things went disco as ‘I Don’t Depend On You’, the 1979 that was released prior to ‘Reproduction’ under the alias of THE MEN took its place in the set but importantly, highlighting how THE HUMAN LEAGUE might have mutated into how HEAVEN 17 eventually sounded even if there hadn’t been a split.

Ever the raconteur, Gregory jokingly threatened a performance of ‘Dare’ but settled on stories about the formation of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and HEAVEN 17.

But an unexpected HEAVEN 17 encore reminded the sold-out crowd that we don’t need Fascists, especially that nasty little race traitor Ugly Patel and her scruffy bumbling posh boy mate! But ultimately, all anyone in life really desires is ‘Temptation’ with dimes in that hot slot!

Prior to these shows, THE HUMAN LEAGUE faithful inevitably questioned the validating of HEAVEN 17 performing these albums without Phil Oakey, but is ‘Fade To Grey’ any less valid sung by its co-writer Midge Ure than it is by the late VISAGE front man Steve Strange? By using many of the original synth sounds, this celebration of these two seminal albums was both authentic and appealing.

Sometimes celebrations can actually be more entertaining than modern day incarnations of an original act, as proven with DEPECHE MODE and their various tribute bands showing more spirit to respect for their legacy. At the end of the day, the stars of this evening were the songs themselves, a collection of pioneering electronic adventures that have been forgotten by the mainstream who largely think THE HUMAN LEAGUE appeared by magic with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’.

Those who want to see THE HUMAN LEAGUE performing the ‘Dare’ album can do so at the end of 2021.

But for those who preferred to recall the excitement prevalent at the start of the Synth Britannia era, tonight at The Roundhouse was the place to be… the way it was in the past, a long long time ago!


‘Reproduction’ + ‘Travelogue’ were released by Virgin Records and are still available in the usual formats

https://www.heaven17.com/

https://www.facebook.com/heaven17official/

https://twitter.com/heaven17bef

https://www.instagram.com/heaven17official/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price except where credited
6th September 2020

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