Friday, 7 December 2012

The Human League at the Royal Albert Hall

I was privileged to see The Human League at the Royal Albert Hall on their current tour and they were glorious - as if they could be anything else? Phil did his usual manic running about the stage and the girls danced with their arms above their heads (which is the law). Susan and Joanne have been dancing like that for over 30 years and you know you're in for a good show when you see those arms go up for the first time. But I'm leaping ahead...

The Royal Albert Hall is a big barn of a place and it was full, all ages, not just those who remember the League from back in the day but there was definitely a tendency for the older folks to be having a night out. As ever, the Human League take care in their set design and excellent lighting, with different colours bathing the stage and spotlights on Phil and the girls. There were clothing changes, sticking to their monochrome palette although Susan went a bit glam and sparkly at the last change.

The show opened with lasers flying around the stage and into the audience as we listening to a stirring orchestral piece called, I think, 'Explore', and then the screen in front of the stage rose and there they were in all their haughty glory leading off with 'Sky' from 'Credo' (the last album). The applause was interrupted by the opening chords of 'The Sound Of The Crowd' and, row by row, everybody got to their feet, clapping and singing along. And, quite frankly, I didn't stop singing along, as we moved through 'Open Your Heart', 'Heart Like A Wheel', 'All I Ever Wanted' and the great 'These Are The Things Dreams Are Made Of' which always makes me smile when The Ramones are name-checked in the chorus.

We then had a Phil moment with him pacing the stage to 'Seconds', followed by 'The Lebanon', 'Louise' and 'One Man In My Heart'. A couple more songs from 'Credo' followed, 'Night People' and 'Electric Shock', an then were back to the classics of 'Love Action', 'Tell Me When', 'Fascination' and 'Mirror Man'. And that was it, all over. All over? Surely not, as the mad clapping and stomping raised the roof and back they came for 'Goodbye Bad Times' (from Phil's '80s album with Georgio Moroder) an amazing 'Don't You Want Me' and finished off with 'Together In Electric Dreams'.

When you've got a songbook like The Human League you can pick and choose how to fill a setlist and this was a good 'un even if we didn't get 'Being Boiled'. This is billed as the XXXV Tour celebrating how long they've been around and 'Being Boiled' was the first song of theirs I ever heard, and that was on the John Peel radio show back in the late '70s.

The whole gig was nothing short of magnificent. They tamed the barn that is the RAH and brought sense and order to the stage, defining their space and lighting it perfectly. The sound was perfect. The Human League were perfect. I can easily say that this was the best gig I've ever seen at the RAH.

Highlights for me were a tender 'Louise', a dramatic 'Open Your Heart' and 'The Lebanon' which is always a firm favourite. I was secretly delighted to be word perfect for the rap in 'Love Action'. The songs of the night, however, were 'Don't You Want Me' and 'Together In Electric Dreams' in the encore. It's lovely seeing Susan take the lead vocals and holding out the microphone so we sing her line back at her, "I still love you". And we do.

The whole place was singing along to 'Don't You Want Me' and, with the acoustics of the RAH, it was an amazing, shiver-inducing sound. I've never heard a sound like it. It must be amazing to be in the band and see and hear the audience take wing with that song. Finishing off with a euphoric 'Together In Electric Dreams' was perfect to follow 'Don't You Want Me', taking us to the edge and pulling slightly back, leaving us in a comfortable and happy space.

Philip, Susan and Joanne deliver perfect pop, always and forever. They were gods in the '80s and they still are. Phil striding back and forth across the stage, the lasses wiggling their hips and raising their arms and that amazing sound they collectively make. I love your love action...

Come back soon!

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