The Human League at Leopardstown – Review & Photos
Electro pop pioneers The Human League mark a long awaited return to the Emerald Isle with a sold out show in the unusual yet increasingly prolific Live at Leopardstown series, which has recently featured appearances from the likes of Ash, Johnny Marr and The Happy Mondays to name a few. With no new album to promote, a night of solid gold hits are expected and eagerly anticipated by the crowd, who are out in strong numbers.
Arriving onstage in typical pop star fashion, long time members and backing vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley lead the band to centre stage before frontman Philip Oakey emerges, jumping straight into classic ‘Mirror Man’. The synthesised bass sounds are nothing short of massive, which seem to contrast Oakey’s rich vocal chords beautifully. The leather clad frontman does an excellent job of working the crowd as if it were an intimate indoor venue, and carries the ever catchy melodies consistently well as the set progresses. Old favourite ‘Love Action’ is exceptional, with the band sounding especially tight and the cheesy hand gestures from all three vocalists going down a storm.
After an amusing but perhaps needless costume change, we continue with more from 1981’s Dare with ‘Seconds’. This one is a little lacklustre, with far less crowd interaction and more of a reluctant feel, but ‘The Lebanon’ brings things straight back up with some hot lead guitar work and a powerful singalong chorus, of course featuring more irresistible choreography from the two ladies.
Props must be given to the live members of the band, particularly multi instrumentalist Nic Burke, who amazes with his solo keytar skills in ‘Open Your Heart’, perhaps the cheesiest, most 80’s moment of the whole night. The crowd lap up the synchronised hand claps and arm flailing accompanying the delightfully corny vocals. Never before has a racecourse been subject to such a display of pop clichès. While it’s a peculiar spectacle to enjoy, you have to appreciate the rarities such as these in life, which thanks to the Human League, we have experienced.
Having not said much so far, Oakey expresses his thanks for “Allowing us to come back to Ireland’ after the ten year absence, before once again popping off for a quick costume change and a perhaps much needed breather. Returning in some very pretty cashmere dresses and smart shirts, the main set closes with the seminal ‘Don’t You Want Me’. It’s one of those feel-good moments where everyone seems to carry the already perfect pop song with their chanting and clapping. Finishing the encore once and for all with an awe inspiring version of ‘Together in Electric Dreams’, the short set clocks in at just over an hour.
With a near 40 year career behind them, The Human League are one of those enduring bands who managed to persevere through the highs and lows of the last few decades, and continue to spread the joy of electro pop to the whole world. With a back catalogue of timeless hits, a night with the Human League was always going to be a nostalgia trip for some. Yet with a performance as tight as this, it’s no surprise they sell out indoor venues and racecourses left right and centre.
Review by Finn O’Reilly
Photos by Tudor Marian