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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:07 am 
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Latest review, just submitted by Nick the Bookman and Official Court Music Reviewer:

The Human League in HK 13/10/2011

Tonight's the night. Ain't that right, Neil Young? Anyway...tonight's the night that Human League make their HK debut. I got my cheapish ($480 for a balcony seat) quite early in unfulfilled expectations that the gig would sell out faster than the recent Red Hot Chili Peppers show. Buoyed along on a sense memory rush of how much fun early Human League were, I figured better safe than sorry. And I'm glad I did. I wonder how many familiar faces I'll see at KITEC.

I've arrived about 1945. The show is supposed to start at 2000. Former RTHK and Commercial Radio DJ Brian Leung will do a 50 minute set and the band should be on stage by about 2050. I guess a 90 minute show, so should be able to make the 2330 ferry if I'm lucky. I'm curious as to what Human League will play. They're touring a new LP/CD called "Credo" and should be dipping into quite a tasty back catalogue. Of course "Don't You Want Me" is a dead cert. They can't not perform it. It would be like Bauhaus not playing "Bela Lugosi's Dead" live. (Actually that's a bad example because when Bauhaus played HK some 20 years ago, they didn't play "Bela". Peter Murphy did sing a chorus or two when he did a solo gig here a couple of years later. Maybe he remembered I gave him a gentle bollocking after the Bauhaus gig!) I'm hoping to hear "Being Boiled" at least and as for the rest of the show, a mix of Human League's Mark 1 and 2 will suffice.

There's a reasonable crowd waiting to go in. No rush. Who do I know here? Well, there's Divine, a Chinese photographer friend who I've enjoyed many a rave and a gig over the last decade or so. There's Hugh and Jo from Lamma. And Sharon, but no Jim. And Finnish neighbour Pekka who's hoping to get into the show. And that lovely lady who I brush past while going to find my seat. She looks familiar. I go upstairs to be told that I can in fact go into the mosh pit ($680 a ticket) instead of sitting in the gallery. Excellent news. Brian is wrapping up his set. A quick, lightly refried mix of tunes including "Fade To Grey" by Visage. Then "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat with some trancey overlay. And finally, a real remade blast from the past. It's "Backstreet Love" , originally done by Curved Air nigh on 40 years ago. No idea who's doing this version. The only complaint is that the sound levels are equal to a weak
radio transmission. Hope the main act is louder.

I'm jotting down some notes in a corner when "lovely lady" walks up and says "Hi, Nick. Remember me?" (Her face is familiar, but I've forgotten her name.) "I used to be in Mothership". (A blast from the past for Ye Lamma Oldies. I'm tempted to say Kim as a tease because I know she isn't Kim and so she has to be...) "...Zoe! Great to see you again. I brushed past you outside." The guy with Zoe is her beau Joe(y). We have a quick natter as roadies truckle around on stage. Some discussion of the gig. The big three are Joanne Catherall, Susanne Sulley and the big League main vocalist, Phil Oakey. There are two stands of synths, stage left and right, and the electronic drum kit in the middle. And a large film screen above them. So are Radio Gnomes Invisible going to play the gear? Is it going to be electronic karaoke after the start button is pushed? Are are there more members of Human League, Mark nth? About a thousand people are inside by now, none of them sharing my concerns.

It's 2100 and the current incarnation of Human League appears on stage. There six people. From left to right they are Nic Burke, drummer Robert Barton and David Beevers. In front of them, eventually, are Susanne (or Susan on the credits on "Credo"). Then a bald Phil. His asymmetrical 80's hair do a distant memory. And on the far right is Joanne. When I see what they're wearing, I mentally dub them Posh, Hoodie and Sporty. And away we go on our varied mental flashbacks to when we first heard these songs. No Hot Tub Time Machine needed.

The first three songs are "Never Let Me Go", "Open Your Heart" and "The Sound Of The Crowd". All impeccably performed and I can't hear any significant deviations from the original recordings. Would have liked to hear the extended or 12' versions of the latter two as performed so admirably on The League Unlimited Orchestra "Love And Dancing" CD. The recently demised Martin Rushent was up there with Trevor Horn in finding the space and extending the tunes for the dance floor. Sample vox, echo syn-drums etc. He did a breathtaking remix of "Pinky Blue" by Altered Images once that I'm still desperately trying to track down. Anyway, back to New Romantic/Synthy reality. The mostly local crowd is clearly enjoying itself. Especially when Phil says "Thank you very much. It's nice to be in Hong Kong, We're the Human League". The visuals are quite interesting. At one moment, there are morphing sine wave patterns and oscilloscope blips. Sped up film of cars in an Asian megalopolis. Lots of sheep doing human things. Nature. Red lights, blue lights etc. And the sound is loud enough.

Phil has stripped off the hoodie to reveal a greyish track suit, Susan(ne) and Joanne have changed into some stylish lingerie which ups the "phwoar" factor. They're slowly undulating and weaving, but not in synch, as they sing and coo the choruses while Phil strides around belting out the lyrics in true showman style. At one point, he's in front of me and I try waving and making eye contact in a girly gooey sort of swoony flutter. Half imagining Phil saying in a deep Elvis like voice "Wull, hullo there little lady. Are you pleased to see me or have you been sitting in a puddle"? And then I think. Hang on. I'm a middle aged bloke. Yes, he's a good showman! In a recent interview, he said that he and the ladies enjoy doing this. It's their career and they'll keep on as long as people want to hear them and the hits. And I don't think they have to be be on the circuit treadmill 24/7. Their pace seems more attuned to two or three shows a week. And why not. I figure they're rich enough on past royalties to take it slow and steady. Granted, not every show is a Grand Slam home run, but none of them are toxic crap either.

The show moves on through solid, florid emoti-ballad-rockers like "Heart Like A Wheel" and "Empire State Human". Cracking stuff. Nic has emerged front and centre to play his keytar. Later he rocks out on a proper guitar and has a duelling keytar moment with David.
The first new song is "Night People" which is a bit more modern and juddery. Intertwined choruses of "night people" from the ladies form the underbackdrop to the main lyrics. Bit reminiscent of prime time Soft Cell on "Non-stop Ecstatic Dancing" The next song should have been the lit lighters waving aloft number. It's "I'm Only Human", written "for us by Jam and Terry" and adroitly slides past the lounge/kitsch ballad territory inhabited by irritating female singers who are constantly pestering the Top Ten. No names needed.

Earlier, I queried Zoe on whether "Together In Electric Dreams" would feature. It's the biggest Human League vocal performance, not done by the band, but with Phil doing a one-off collaboration with Giorgio Moroder. She's iffy about it. I think it's a good possibility. Then Divine re-emerges from the crowd and shows me the set list on his mobile. And we'll get to that in a moment. Meanwhile Zoe's in boogie mode as "Love Action" starts to weave its lusty humping spell. It's another nice little peak in the show which continues into "All I Ever Wanted", "Tell Me When" (the only old song I didn't recognise) and an uptempo "Mirrorman". Still to come are a funkyish "Fascination" and then the crowd starts cheering as the opening chords of "Don't You Want Me" reverb forth.

At this point, it's safe to say that everyone is time-tripping. Flitting 'twixt the lusty young New Romantics of yore when the world was your oyster on the half shell to the gritty cyber now when that question is greeted with murderous rejection if applied to the fucked up fundamental religious nutbags of all persuasions as well as the cataclysmically incompetent corporate whore shareholders and preening, putrid politicians whose pissant policies helped to break the world. No we don't want you, unless you're dying double dreadfully over decades of disintegration and degradation. In fact "Being Boiled"* would be a fine start. Accompanied by side orders of castration, dismemberment, evisceration and epic mutilation... erm, sorry about that. Gone a little off review there.

Anyway, it's the encore. The first track is of course (* see above). Phil says "this is the first song we wrote". That's a little misleading because if memory serves, it was jointly written with Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware who soon left Human League to form Heaven 17. And Heaven 17 also used to do their own twangy explosive version of "Being Boiled" in concert. It's my best concert moment of the night. The final encore is (sorry Zoe) "Electric Dreams". And with that over, the lights come on. It's about 2230 and there's time to get the MTR to Central for the 2330 ferry home. Although Hugh, Jo and I had to canter down the IFC walkway to be sure of making the ferry. It was a great show. More people should have come. Phil was gracious and effusive in his thanks to the audience. Now bring on Mogwai on 21/11/2011.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:31 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:35 pm
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crackin review nick...wish i'd been there

squinty here by the way


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