The Human League, ABC and Heaven 17 come home
A slightly belated post, but I thought I ought to mark the arrival of the steel city tour to Sheffield last Saturday.
I’d seen the Human League and Heaven 17 live before but not ABC, and the combination of all three playing on the same bill on the last night of the tour in Sheffield was irresistible – even though I knew that the atmosphere at arena gigs can be inferior compared to a smaller venue.
Although it was billed as a near sell out, it wasn’t a full arena show due to the stage being positioned about two thirds of the way down the venue and the rest curtained off.
Heaven 17 were in first, and considering many people only really seem to know one song of theirs, they didn’t have any problems keeping the crowd entertained. They sounded fresh, with updated versions of their back catalogue predictably building to the one that got people on their feet, Temptation.
Up next were ABC. The likable Martin Fry looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself, and so was the crowd as cuts from the amazing Lexicon of love album were performed to perfection.
As a live band they sounded excellent, aided in particular by the great percussionist and female backing vocalist. And when you can end the set with the irresistible four-song salvo of All of my heart, Tears are not enough, When Smokey sings and The look of love, you know that you are going out on a high – and they did.
The curtain was then lifted to reveal the full stage for headline act of the night, the Human League. It included a split-height stage and impressive video wall that gave some visual backing to the hour-long greatest hits set.
The League were on good form and the hometown crowd lapped it up. The cream of Dare was included, as well as early material (Empire state human and Being boiled), the political (The Lebanon), the recently covered (Louise), the 90s hit (Tell me when) and the collaboration (Together in electric dreams).
Phil famously recruited the two girls, Susan and Joanne, at the Crazy Daisy nightclub in Sheffield, and their contribution to the show was as charming and as down-to-earth as ever. You still feel like you are watching a couple of girls freshly plucked from a Sheffield club, yet without them the band would be totally incomplete.
This show may have been considered by some to have been a home banker, with three classic and influential Sheffield bands playing in the steel city on the closing night of a Christmas tour. But with expectations raised the pressure was on to deliver and I think that all three bands did.
What’s more, they reminded us of the lasting influence that their pioneering brand of electronic music continues to exert today – plus of course their ability to write some of the most enduring pop songs of the last 30 years.
The Human League perform Love action at Sheffield Arena, December 2008