I was little worried about reviewing this DVD. Having watched various old
lags struggle to retain their dignity on Hit Me Baby One More Time over the
last few weeks, I was appalled at the thought of the once mighty The Human League
drowning in the quicksand of easy nostalgia. Touring the hits in order to pay
the mortgage, going through the motions with a cynicism that would betray their
history. The gig on the DVD was filmed on the last night of their headlining UK
tour in 2003 at The Dome in Brighton.
The artwork of DVD did nothing to allay my fears. It lacks the bands usual
visual flair, the cover to Dare is pure 80's pop art. The silhouetted crowd
shot and fuzzy live photo looks like the office junior knocked it up in five
minutes. With more than a little trepidation I placed the DVD in the machine
and sat back to watch.
From the opening thumping drum machine of Hard Times, to the sing along
finale of Sound Of The Crowd the band are on cracking form and my fears quickly
dissolve. Against a basic stage set, white with three screens for projections,
the three singers Philip Oakey, Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall and the
backing musicians deliver a storming show.
The songs sound fantastic live, the arrangements adding some modern sheen to
the sound but the songs remaining true to there classic status. With material
this strong there is no need to dress it up in new musical clothes. Louise is
still as heartbreaking as unrequited love, Darkness all glacial synths, cool
blue lighting and paranoia. The Lebanon's two note bassline, a personal
favourite, rattles from the stage, its description of a war torn Middle East
still relevant today. The hits stack up like a heavenly jukebox. Human, Mirror
Man, Don't You Want Me. The band try out new material, One Man in My Heart and
Love Me Madly and it doesn't kill the atmosphere, the crowd singing along with
as much gusto to the new songs as the old hits. The three singers start in fine
voice - Oakey's seems to have matured nicely with age. By the end
they all seem to be straining a little but it doesn't distract from the feel
good vibe in the slightest.
The extras are cool. A 20-minute tour film, that places you in the heart
of stage for a couple of performances. The crowd reaction to Don't You Want Me is
amazing and you can understand why the band carry on when the gigs are so
energised. It also includes a bizarre and funny mimed backstage rehearsal that
leaves the band in stitches.
In addition to the tour film you get two sets of interviews. The first one is
with the three core members of the band and the second is with Philip on his
own. The band are dry, funny and revealing. Its surprising to hear that Virgin
wanted to smoother the classic pop of Dare in guitars. The band held out, no
guitars, and the album went onto sell 5 million copies Philip recalls how he
recruited Susan and Joanne from a disco in Sheffield after the main songwriter
in the band had quit to form Heaven 17. It's like Liam sacking Noel and
hooking up with two waitresses from Pizza Express, then getting the Neptunes
to produce the LP and breaking America.
On this evidence the The Human League are miles away from the desperation that
fuels acts to climb abroad the reality TV gravy train. Still out there
performing, still writing, and still trying to make the perfect pop