Is it really 40 years since The Human League’s Dare landed in record shops, on vinyl of course? Apparently so. A defining album of 1981 and beyond, Dare influenced the UK electronic pop scene, spawning a generation of moody teenagers sporting geometric haircuts, kohl-lined panda eyes and head to toe black clothes. The New Romantics had arrived.
The now 50-something teenagers of the era, nostalgic for those heady days and the searing lines of iconic floorfiller Don’t You Want Me, filled the Motorpoint for a night of 80s synthpop with a splash of migraine-inducing strobe light mayhem. After a storming set from Altered Images and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey – delivering, respectively, tight and energetic versions of Happy Birthday and We Are Detectives amongst other crowdpleasers – the main event took to the stage: Sheffield’s finest, The League.
On a stripped-back, mainly white-laddered ensemble, the set looked 1984-esque but allowed Philip Oakey full rein to dash across the stage up the stairs and peer down from high, like a high priest yogi master. No messing around – straight into Mirror Man, Oakey (a pinup back in the day, lest we forget) standing poker-straight on top of the staircase in full-on Matrix mode with the addition of a little goatee. Despite the face furniture, he looked and sounded amazing; despite his 66 years, his voice remains unaltered. As for Mirror Man itself, those belting synths took you straight back to sweaty mid-80s disco days. Magic.
From the opening tech beats of The Things That Dreams Are Made Of and Open Your Heart to The Sound Of The Crowd and The Lebanon and – of course – Love Action and Don’t You Want Me, the hits kept coming and the back catalogue was huge. Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley still commanded the stage and hit all the notes in the right order (which Oakey did joke about with the crowd at one point). They delivered, appreciated and understood what the audience came for, in spades.
The encore ensued with a brilliant take on Giorgio Moroder collaboration Together In Electric Dreams, which exploded into a laser-fest and debut single Being Boiled – ending one of the best gigs for a long, long time. God, I miss the 80s…
words ANTONIA LEVAY photos KEVIN PICK
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