Rewind rage

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By Steven Pa­trick en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

THE Hu­man League wrote the sound­track to many an “elec­tric dream” in the 1980s. The group cre­ated mu­sic that seemed to have been beamed on some in­ter-galac­tic trans­mis­sion from an­other planet in the fu­ture.

The Hu­man League be­gan in the in­dus­trial steel town of Sh­effield in Eng­land and soon earned the praise of David Bowie in 1978 who upon see­ing the group, told Brit mu­sic mag­a­zine NME that he “had seen the fu­ture of pop mu­sic.”

Bowie was right. Five years later on, they had the “world at their feet” and lead singer Phil Oakey, 56, sported a lop-sided hairstyle.

The Hu­man League took its cue from Ger­man out­fit Kraftwerk, that paired ro­botic vo­cals with cold, de­tached elec­tronic mu­sic – a per­fect sound­track to the in­dus­trial age.

But the band took it a step fur­ther, adding pop sen­si­bil­ity into the mix and cre­ated the per­fect union of man and ma­chine.

Af­ter two aus­tere, genre-defin­ing elec­tronic al­bums and a line-up change, The Hu­man League even­tu­ally mar­ried Abba-es­que humma­bil­ity with space-age dan­ca­bil­ity on 1982’s Dare! and more of the hits that fol­lowed.

As wit­nessed by 7,000 peo­ple in Fort Can­ning Park, Sin­ga­pore at the Retro­li­cious con­cert last Satur­day, The Hu­man League put the pop in elec­tro-pop.

“We’re a syn­the­siser band. We like syn­the­sis­ers,” a hair-less Oakey proudly told the crowd.

Along with fe­male side­kicks Jo Cather­all and Su­san Anne Sulley, Oakey knocked out hit af­ter hit (save for a song on the new al­bum ... but we won’t go into that).

Oakey, Catheral and Sulley are the only three re­main­ing mem­bers from the group in 1982 and were backed by a a gui­tarist, a cou­ple of key­boardists and a drum­mer.

Com­pared to say, an­other elec­tro act like The Pet Shop Boys (who hit the pub­lic eye af­ter the Hu­man League), the Hu­man League’s live set is fairly min­i­mal­is­tic – no big the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion, danc­ing troupe and There is noth­ing like a cel­e­bra­tion of 1980s retro pop to get the old bones groov­ing again. big sound ar­range­ments, just the songs.

The group de­liv­ered the op­ti­mistic Keep Feel­ing Fas­ci­na­tion, the tale of dou­ble in­fi­delity called Hu­man and the Mo­town in­flu­enced song Mir­ror Man to a warmed-up crowd.

Oakey even pleased diehards with Em­pire State Hu­man, a song from the­League’s 1978 de­but al­bum – a fan­tasy about want­ing to be 14 storeys high (told you they were space cadets!)

But what re­ally got the crowd and a sea of hands wav­ing was To­gether In Elec­tric Dreams ( the duet Oakey did with Gior­gio Moroder back in 1984.) Oakey was grin­ning from ear-to-ear by this time.

There were more grins to come when The Hu­man League ended the set with its mon­ster hit, Don’t You Want Me.

Al­most three decades on, it’s still a knock-em-dead pop clas­sic. The song em­bod­ies all that is im­por­tant in 80s pop – a mon­strous synth line, a tale of love gone wrong and a killer cho­rus.

Un­for­tu­nately, that was the only rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Dare! al­bum for the night. But any­way...

At this Sin­ga­pore gig, Belinda Carlisle, 53, fol­lowed The Hu­man League, which was rather strange as the only thing the two acts have in com­mon is they both had pop hits in the 80s.

The Hu­man League grew up in the grey, steel-town of Sh­effield, and cre­ated mu­sic from an art-pop stand­point and ended up re­luc­tant pop stars.

Carlisle on the other hand, grew up un­der Cal­i­for­nian sun­shine and was born to be a pop-star with ra­diofriendly songs.

She be­gan as a singer for the Go Gos, be­fore be­com­ing a solo artiste and singing her brand of golly-gee, safe-as-houses songs.

Look­ing as good as she did in her hey­day, she sang with the ease of a pro­fes­sional on songs like Leave a Light On and Heaven Is A Place On Earth.

The third and fi­nal act of the night were English girl-group Bana­narama.

Once a trio but now a duo, Bana­narama now con­sist of Keren Wood­ward, 50, and Sarah Dallin, 49, who seemed re­laxed on stage.

They spoke to the crowd the most, in­tro­duc­ing their songs and ask­ing the crowd to feel free to do the moves.

Again, look­ing as good as they did in their hey­day (must be a fe­male thing), they sang sug­ary and in­fec­tious pop tunes like I Heard A Ru­mour, Robert De Niro’s Wait­ing and Cruel Sum­mer, com­plete with the dance rou­tines and male-dancers.

The night closed with their ver­sion of The Chateaus’ 1960s clas­sic Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good­bye.

No fash­ion po­lice were needed for any of the night’s three acts – there were no flu­o­res­cent colours or baggy pants. Most of these per­form­ers, now in their 50s, dressed taste­fully in black.

Although con­sid­ered to be yes­ter­day’s he­roes, all three acts de­liv­ered their hits en­thu­si­as­ti­cally with­out a trace of big, bloated, Ve­gas-y din­ner­show pomp. There was also a large video screen on stage, where 80s im­ages were pro­jected through the night.

But the stars of the night were the songs them­selves ... and the crowd, who were like a mix of Zouk’s Mambo crowd and an ex­pat gath­er­ing.

The crowd danced and sang along in true out­door fes­ti­val fash­ion and par­tied like it was 1984. How­ever, some of the younger ones knew the songs but weren’t sure just who sang them.

For in­stance, a twenty-some­thing girl in the au­di­ence said be­fore the show, “ I know the songs but I’m not sure of the per­form­ers. I know the banana-group (!?). I like Heaven Is A Place on Earth ... (she mixed up Belinda Carlisle with Bana­narama).”

Sigh, I guess my age is show­ing when I start to no­tice things like that.

Now ex­cuse me while I or­der some hair tonic and go chat up a “wait­ress in a cock­tail bar.”

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