Gig review: The Human League at O2 Academy Leeds

The Human League
The Human League
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“You don’t get that from Spandau Ballet”, joked Philip Oakey atop of his band’s elaborate stage set-up at Leeds’ O2 Academy, after a roaring performance of Love Action.

The full-to-capacity crowd were well up for a night of 80’s synthpop fun, as Oakey and his two female counter parts, Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall, had the audience swinging from the rafters, with various costume changes and crowd interaction.

Opening with their hit, Mirror Man, it was immediately apparent that The Human League are still a live force to be reckoned with. Whereas so many of their contemporaries have been reduced to little more than nostalgia acts at package gigs, they are still selling out the same venues they were playing 30 years ago.

Tracks like Fascination and Night People gave Oakey the opportunity to cover every inch of the stage, never standing still for more than a few moments. Working the male audience members into a frenzy, Sulley and Catherall, who were no doubt plastered all over the walls of more than a few of their walls back in the day, remained static at their microphones. But that did not inhibit their performances. Sully, the more extroverted of the two, danced and smiled her way into the spectator’s hearts. Whereas the more reserved Catherall won over her side of the stage by engaging with individuals at the front.

With the trio being born and bred in Sheffield, the inevitable playful banter was rife, as Oakey teased the Leeds crowd, comparing the shire’s two most-influential cities. He did win over some kudos when he announced that he used to live in Leeds.

The supporting musicians, completely clad in white to match the backdrop, sent the room wild as they sang along to the keytar riff of the band’s signature hit, Don’t You Want Me, as the three stars returned to the stage for the first encore.

Definitely more a trip down memory lane rather than a look to the future, The Human League sent the O2 back in time for 90 minutes - back to the days of electronic music and vivid costumes. Their days of hit singles may be over, but the fan base they built up over 30 years ago have not forgotten these pop pioneers, and remain very much behind them.

Gig date: December 8