Human League, ABC and Heaven 17
Carling Academy, Glasgow, Sunday 30 Nov
This article is from 2008.
When David Bowie watched Human League play an early gig in 1979, he said he’d just seen ‘the future of pop music’ and their sci-fi, deadpan brand of electronica was ‘like listening to 1980’. Almost 30 years later, with synth-pop bleeping its way through another revival, his forecasting seems pretty accurate.
‘Back then we were on an evangelical mission,’ says Phil Oakey, Human League’s lead singer. ‘We wanted to make pop records, where the only element recorded with a microphone was the human voice. We didn’t want anything that made physical vibrations in the air. The first time anyone heard anything was when it came out the speakers; not when it came out the guitar or the drum.’ Their avant-garde aspirations were perfectly timed, and in the wake of krautrock, glam-rock and disco, crowds were ready to lap up Human League’s robotic, theatrical take on dance music, made by machines.
Although Oakey and the band have written fresh material recently, he says this tour, with fellow Sheffield acts, Heaven 17 and ABC, will be strictly old hits. ‘Luckily nature made my hair fall out, so I can’t make a fool of myself, pretending that I’m 22,’ he laughs, a sideways dig at the asymmetric bob that used to be his trademark. ‘I’d always wanted to be a glam pop star. We were just very lucky the right technology arrived at just the right time. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I’d probably be driving a taxi or something.’