The Human League - Preston Guildhall - 9.12.04

There's a frivolous feeling of fancy dress tomfoolery amongst the, shall we say, more mature members of the audience. They've bravely arrived in some garish, kitsch outfits last seen in the heyday of the Human League era of the 1980s. Well it is nearly Christmas, so for some the party atmosphere is well under way with a family outing of ages ranging from 16 to 60 and the Guild Hall is proud to welcome these synth purveyors of pop.

When the lights dim, the anticipation is almost unbearable. A silhouette of the band can be seen quite visibly and when the curtain drops we can see The Human League in all their glory. While Phil Oakey's rugged good looks cater for the ladies, the male contingent can swoon, worship and indeed appreciate the effortless sensuality of the delectable divas who are Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall. In fact all 3 members look as if they've been drinking from the fountain of eternal youth. Oakey's once iconic hair style may now me a more severe shaven headed dome, but with shades and confident strut, he is and always will be eternally cool. Additional, but vital musicians provide keyboards, guitar and percussion.

You couldn't begin with a better opening song than "Mirror Man". There's an arty array of visuals and slogans across the large screen on stage which differs from the low key backdrop this time last year. Dramatic strobe lighting is used during the serious polemic of "Lebanon", but it's still a show full of glamour when the girls make a quick costume change, reappear in posh new frocks and perform their own version of "Just Be Good To Me". Much more familiar is the beautiful ballad "Human" and the electro delight that is "Love Action".

Phil Oakey moves with the grace and vitality of a man half his age. His voice still has that commanding yet welcoming resonance. "Don't You want me Baby" has thankfully not been tarnished by that appalling TV commercial and tonight is updated for the noughties, but is still the sing along favourite it's always been. Phil and the girls may not say an awful lot, but their music speaks volumes. After playing a superb version of his collaboration with Giorgio Moroder "Together In Electric Dreams" he asks the audience is anyone saw the Human League being name checked on The Mighty Boosh and has a boogie with an avid stage invader. A fitting end to an outstanding show.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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