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The Human League Standon Calling

Written by on July 22, 2023

If you haven’t seen The Human League before, it’s likely you’ll be taken aback at just how good they are playing live.
Lead singer Phil Oakey and his backing singers Joanne and Susan, all the originals from the 80s line-up, are a fine-tuned outfit, sounding just as they did back in the day.

And with 17 Top 40 hits under their belts, including 8 Top Tens and one Number 1, it’s no wonder they soon had the Standing Calling crowd on side.

Headlining at the Hertfordshire festival on its opening night, the 80s synth band rattled through a setlist of hit after hit, with classics including Don’t You Want Me, Human, Mirror Man, Love Action, Tell Me When, (Keep Feeling) Fascination, The Lebanon and Together in Electric Dreams.

They were taking to the stage after a fun set from Standon Calling favourites The Cuban Brothers with their humorous Mex-Tex vibe and Scottish rock singer K T Tunstall with hits including Suddenly I See, Other Side of the World and Black Horse and The Cherry Tree.

Entering the stage to a stunning version of 1981 hit The Sound of the Crowd, The Human League set the tone of the night with a powerful synth-filled performance.

This was followed by the Motown-esque sounding Mirror Man which got the crowd singing at the top of its voice.
The politically-charged song The Lebanon, released in 1984 in opposition to the Lebanese Civil War, is another powerful piece in The Human League’s armour, and whilst it reached a lower placing in the UK charts than some of their other hits (No 11), it’s always well-received when played live.

The performance was a slick show from the consummate professionals, with great video backdrops on stage that included a Pacman montage during Open Your Heart, and a regular appearance of the 80s handheld keyboard, the Keytar, on their tracks.

And with numerous costume changes throughout from both the girls and Phil, the crowd were treated to a real show.
The girls, Joanne and Susan, are an integral part of the band – with their eye-catching costumes, dance moves and distinctive voices.

Susan Ann Tully also took centre stage on the night with lead vocals on their 1995 chart hit One Man In My Heart, a single taken from their Octopus album.

Speaking to the crowd, she said: “We’ve never been here before. How lovely, thank you very much for inviting us and thank you for coming. We, and everybody else that stands on this stage this weekend, we can’t do it without you, so just to say, on everybody’s behalf, but especially our’s, thank you very much for supporting us.”

A great cover version of Behind The Mask, originally sung by 80s Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra, could easily have been a Human League original song back in the 80s – it so suited the band’s style.

The end of the main set saw a resounding performance of the band’s 1981 No 1 single and ultimate classic Don’t You Want Me, a real crowd pleaser, with Phil thanking the Standon Crowd “for all your support.”

To bring the band back on stage for an encore, the crowd broke into an impromptu rendition of Don’t You Want Me again, until the band responded to their wishes and returned to the stage.

The encore featured the eerie Being Boiled followed by Phil Oakey’s collaboration with Giorgio Moroder Together in Electric Dreams, recorded for the film Electric Dreams, which he jokingly described as being “our first ever theme tune and last ever theme tune.”

A real electric end to an electric performance. Thank you The Human League – you’re in a league of your own.

 


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