The Human League
at Wolverhampton Civic Hall * * * *
Review by Velimir Pavle Ilic
It's that time of year again, when The Human League dust off their trusty analogue keyboards and set off on their now-traditional Christmas jaunt around the country, delighting us all with a feast of electro-pop treats and wonky dancing.
Now primarily a touring concern, the Sheffield combo's enduring appeal persists, and with the likes of Madonna and Moby citing them as innovative influences, their stock as national treasures refuses to dissipate.
Unlike many of their 80s contemporaries, the League seem to have taken on a new lease of life.
In the face of infectious tunes and retro synths, tonight's willing crowd offer no resistance and are sucked in like cyber sheep from the off – nostalgia rules, people jig about like it's 1981 and The Human League are greeted and cheered like royalty.
Phil Oakey's dry baritone has never sounded better, and although the usual conveyor belt of hits is cranked out – cue iconic lust paean Love Action and ubiquitous school disco anthem Don't You Want Me – there are plenty of surprises in between, with updated versions of formative, early League material – including the wonderfully buoyant Marianne – also receiving a welcome airing.
Although Oakey stomps around like a marionette, rocking nervously from side to side like a metronome-made-flesh, he clearly defies his 51 years, while cohorts Susan Ann Gayle and Joanne Catherall – famously plucked from obscurity at a Sheffield nightclub over 25 years ago – still sound as flat as a pancake.
It's all part of the League's endearing charm, and as fashions come and go, their songs – crafted with consummate pop gadgetry and know-how – somehow remain timeless.
With the promise of new material next year, the live energy and flickering creative spark of this seminal 80s outfit suggests they still have much to offer.