Admittedly I'd figured the the band--whose "Don't You Want Me" and "Fascination" I dug back in my late elementary school years--would put on an amusing performance that would brush dangerously close to desperate, unintentional parody. Maybe some audience members would dust off those Robot moves, and perhaps the group would draw enough attendees to pay for a few cocktails and one night's rental of some beat-up van.
Instead, I was awed at how these synth pioneers--brunette backup singer Joanne Catherall celebrated her 44th birthday that evening--remained not just well-preserved, but amazing performers who didn't have to try too hard. From the opening notes of "Sound Of The Crowd" (a friend's fave) and on through the two tunes I best remembered from childhood, Human League stayed on-key, in-harmony, and always on point.
Wearing sunglasses with automaton-like countenances while performing the night's first song was the only throwback moment to 1980s New Wave. Otherwise, the group--led by frontman Philip Oakey--was a modern, slick, and yes, emoting act that could teach the emo-bores of today. Oakey, whose tradmark asymetric 'do has been replaced with a bald pate, looked more virile than in his heydays. Towheaded backup chanteuse Susanne Sulley was sultrier than today's blonde pop "singers." Sure, the sight of two Apple laptops was a distracting jolt back into modern times, but only because I feared the combustible-battery epidemic might explode right there onstage.
My only complaint? That I don't recall any songs penned this decade (I'm pretty sure the British bunch played at least a couple). There's a fine line between a quality oldies act and a longtime group that innovates while preserving its glory days. With a bit more effort, Human League could fall into the latter category.