THE HUMAN LEAGUE + THOMPSON TWINS’ TOM BAILEY + ALTERED IMAGES – BRIGHTON CENTRE 16.12.21
Tonight, at the Brighton Centre it was an all seated masks on affair. The staff as usual were most courteous and experienced in dealing with one or two worse for wear souls after the performance, who were intent on showing themselves up.
We were in attendance to celebrate forty years since the release of ‘DARE’, the iconic album by The Human League and tonight we were going to hear (and see) this classic album performed in its entirety, as well as other hits from their extensive back catalogue. Tonight was date ten of twelve.
Interestingly enough, the original ‘DARE’ tour came to Brighton 40 years and 5 days previous to this new date – on 11th December 1981. The setlist on that night was: ‘You’re My Baby’, ‘Open Your Heart’, ‘Do Or Die’, ‘Circus Of Death’, ‘Darkness’, ‘Don’t You Want Me’, ‘Seconds’, ‘I Am The Law’, ‘Crow And A Baby’, ‘Blind Youth’, ‘Marianne’, ‘Love Action (I Believe in Love)’, ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, ‘Empire State Human’, ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’, ‘Destination Venus’ (The Rezillos cover).
Originals of the British New Wave/Synth scene The Human League dominated the airwaves and charts throughout the 80’s with their dark yet stylish post punk electronica, which remains as fresh, current and highly influential today as it did with the release of ‘DARE’ on the 16th October 1981.
On its release ‘DARE’ instantly became a landmark album for the British music scene, spreading an exciting new sound to the US and Europe and helping give birth to a whole new era in music. With lyrics firmly embedded in the global politics of the day the band had an image that influenced fashion trends and their style, sound and message changed the face of early 80’s club culture, paving the way for the decades of electronic music and clubbing that were to follow. The band are widely regarded as leaders of the second British Invasion of the US music market and, to this day, remain one of the most highly played bands on MTV worldwide.
‘DARE’ contained four hit singles, including the No. 1 ‘Don’t You Want Me’ which is arguably the poppiest track on the album, staying in the charts for five weeks and making the 1981 Xmas No.1 slot. The album earned them a Brit Award the following year and the band continued to grace the top 10 for the next fifteen years, with a resurgence of popularity and commercial success in every decade that has followed. Without doubt their music has inspired generations of fans and influenced many of today’s artists.
The Human League hail from Sheffield and were very much part of an emerging scene there in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Founder member Philip Oakey then took the band on to huge commercial success after first recruiting two female vocalists, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. This three person vocal sound created a unique band line up and all three members have remained in the group to this day. Along with ‘Don’t You Want Me’ singles from ‘DARE’ including; ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’ ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ ‘Open Your Heart’ and ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’ are a popular feature on any epic list of compilations. The band have also released nine studio albums, two remix albums, one live album, six EP’s, thirty singles and since 2001 they have consistently toured and headlined contemporary festivals across the world. More from them later…..
Tonight’s concert was opened up by Altered Images who I have seen twice before in Brighton, but that was 39 and 40 years ago. My first encounter being up at Sussex University in their Mandela Hall on 25th November 1981 and then at the Top Rank Suite on 24th May 1982. Sadly I have no recollection of the latter (other than my ticket), but the first was memorable as I remember meeting two people there for the first time while sitting on the wooden rail at the back of the hall and I’m still friends with them to this day. That was with the original band line-up of former schoolmates, firecracker Clare Grogan (vocals), Gerard “Caesar” McInulty (guitar), Michael “Tich” Anderson (drums), Tony McDaid (guitar), and Johnny McElhone (bass guitar).
They were all members of the Siouxsie and the Banshees official fan club and when they learnt that the Banshees were going to play in Scotland, they sent a demo tape to Billy Chainsaw (who I’ve met), who managed the official Siouxsie fan club with a note asking: “can we support them on tour?”. The Banshees gave the band a support slot on their Kaleidoscope British tour of 1980. Altered Images’ name referred to a sleeve design on the Buzzcocks’ single ‘Promises’, The ‘Altered Images’ design company was founded in 1977 by Malcolm Garrett (who I’ve also met) and he stayed its design director until 1994.
The Scottish band went on to have frequent chart success during the early 80’s combining slightly twisted lyrics with dynamic bubble-gum pop. Their extremely memorable hits include; ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Don’t Talk About Love’ and ‘I Could Be Happy’. Clare is also a highly accomplished and successful actor who has performed on stage, film and television.
These days, the Altered Images banner is still being carried by Clare Grogan, but with some new chums for live work. However, Clare announced that the first Altered Images album in over 38 years is going to be released in 2022 and it will be called ‘Mascara Streakz’ – Pre-order your copy HERE.
Tonight at the Brighton Centre, the quintet take to the front of the stage bang on 7pm as there is a giant curtain behind them. You can’t fail to immediately notice Clare’s sparkly red dress, blond hair and sparkly silver shoes, which is backed up by her cheeky schoolgirl demeanour.
This evening they performed eight choice cuts for us, kicking off with ‘I Could Be Happy’ and ‘See Those Eyes’ from their 1982 ‘Pinky Blue’ album. Song three was for me by far the standout track of the set, this was ‘Dead Pop Stars’. Clare dedicated their debut 1981 single “for all of those punk rockers out there!” and added “I am going to be Siouxsie Sioux for the next 3 minutes. If I told my 18 year old self that I’ll still be playing this at nearly 60, I wouldn’t have believed it”.
From 1981, we were then whisked forward to 2022 with ‘The Colour Of My Dreams’, which will be coming out on the 2022 ‘Mascara Streakz’ album. This in contrast was a funky little number following on from it’s punky predecessor. Next up was a rendition of The Ting Tings ‘That’s Not My Name’, which highlighted the band’s professionalism via the impressive joint lead vocals.
A couple of numbers from the 1983 ‘Bite’ album were given an outing, these being ‘Change Of Heart’ and ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’, with the former Clare certainly belting out the lyrics arguably more powerfully than she did back in the day. They concluded their all too short 31 minute set with ‘Happy Birthday’ which was greeted with great cheers from the Brighton Centre crowd. In conclusion, Altered Images were a fab opening act! Covid came along and messed up the band’s proposed Brighton concert at CHALK on Friday 24th July 2020, but this has now been rescheduled for Sunday 20th March 2022. I shall do my very best to attend this concert in order to get another injection of Grogan happiness! Grab your tickets HERE.
Clare Grogan – vocals
Rosie – bass/backing vocals
Jo – Fender Jaguar guitar/backing vocals
? – drums
? – backing vocals
Altered Images setlist:
‘I Could Be Happy’ (found on 1982 ‘Pinky Blue’ album)
‘See Those Eyes’ (found on 1982 ‘Pinky Blue’ album)
‘Dead Pop Stars’ (found on bonus track edition of 1981 ‘Happy Birthday’ album)
‘The Colour Of My Dreams’ (will be found on 2022 ‘Mascara Streakz’ album)
‘That’s Not My Name’ (The Ting Tings cover)
‘Change Of Heart’ (found on 1983 ‘Bite’ album)
‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’ (found on 1983 ‘Bite’ album)
‘Happy Birthday’ (found on 1981 ‘Happy Birthday’ album)
For further information, visit Altered Images ‘linktree’.
After a 23 minute turnaround, in which the stagehands built a trio of low level platforms, including 16 vertical light strips, at 7:54pm we were off again with Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, who was also performing in front of the huge stage curtain, especially Tom who was at the edge of the stage.
One of my best ever concerts was featuring the Thompson Twins. It was when they were the chart attacking trio and they played the Hammersmith Odeon on 11.5.183. I also saw them at the Brighton Centre on 25th February 1984 and prior to that I seem to recall seeing them as a seven piece in Brighton, which was either at Jenkinsons on 2nd November 1980 or at the Top Rank Suite on 1st November 1982. Sadly I haven’t got my ticket so I can’t confirm which one it was.
Thompson Twins formed part of the second British Invasion of pop culture to the US and had a string of hits in the eighties including ‘Doctor! Doctor!’, ‘You Take Me Up’, ‘Love On Your Side’ and the enigmatic anthem ‘Hold Me Now’. In 2014 Tom Bailey returned to playing the Thompson Twins catalogue live after a break of just 27 years.
More recently, I was able to catch multi-instrumentalist Tom Bailey performing his dozen song Thompson Twins set at the Concorde 2 on 19th June 2016, which was one of only three gigs that year. On that night Yorkshireman Tom was backed by his new all-female band that consisted of Amanda Kramer on vocals and keyboards (who was in The Psychedelic Furs), Paulina Szczepaniak on electronic drums (who also played with Kelli Ali of Sneaker Pimps vocalist fame) and, on her very first gig, Charlotte Raven (keyboards and vocals).
Together with his all female band Tom played a highly successful 80 date world tour in 2018, most of which was in the USA. He released his first solo album ‘Science Fiction’ in 2018.
This evening, both Charlotte Raven and Paulina Szczepaniak are still in the band. New bassist Alice Offley unfortunately had an inconclusive Covid test result so an emergency plan B was put in place. (Fortunately, she has seen tested negative.) Meanwhile, the previous bassist Vicky Warwick was specially flown in from Los Angeles to cement the line-up.
The quartet all dressed in striking white, graced us with their presence at 7:54pm and they were off with ‘Sister Of Mercy’ as an intro which led nicely into ‘Love On Your Side’ from the excellent 1983 Thompson Twins ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ album. Next up was ‘You Take Me Up’, which was one of the five tunes played tonight from the equally excellent Thompson Twins ‘Into the Gap’ album from 1984. In fact, they only performed an eight song set for us this evening which was a shame, as I’m sure that each of the three acts would have been able to add an extra tune to their polished sets as the night concluded at 10:28pm, with the curfew being 11pm.
Tom’s set lasted 39 minutes tonight. The Eastern sounding ‘The Gap’ was given an outing which Tom informed us that they haven’t played on tour since 1986. This tune was rather well received and It reminded me of ‘Living On A Ceiling’ by Blancmange. ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ from ‘Here’s To Future Days’ 1985 album was up next. This was followed by a decent cover version of Talking Heads ‘Psycho Killer’ and then we were on to the highlight of the set for me in the form of ‘Doctor! Doctor!’. Although I strongly suspect that virtually all of the audience would plump for closing number ‘Hold Me Now’, which saw virtually everyone get up out of their seats and conclude the tune with Tom as an acapella version.
They vacated the stage at 8:33pm, which gave the punters 27 minutes to order the drinks and have comfort breaks.
In conclusion, I thought that Charlotte’s cello work was superb and the unit looked resplendent, although the occasional vocal delivery from Tom was just a slight tad off. Having said that, I would love to see a longer set next time around, whenever that will be.
Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey:
Tom Bailey – vocals/keys/guitar/Yamaha DTX drums/harmonica
Charlotte Raven – keys/electric cello/backing vocals
Vicky Warwick – bass
Paulina Szczepaniak – drums
Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey setlist:
Intro: ‘Sister Of Mercy’ (found on 1984 Thompson Twins ‘Into The Gap’ album)
‘Love On Your Side’ (found on 1983 Thompson Twins ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ album)
‘You Take Me Up’ (found on 1984 Thompson Twins ‘Into The Gap’ album)
‘The Gap’ (found on 1984 Thompson Twins ‘Into The Gap’ album)
‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ (found on 1985 ‘Here’s To Future Days’ album)
‘Psycho Killer’ (Talking Heads cover)
‘Doctor! Doctor!’ (found on 1984 Thompson Twins ‘Into The Gap’ album)
‘Hold Me Now’ (found on 1984 Thompson Twins ‘Into The Gap’ album)
Find out more by visiting www.thompsontwinstombailey.com
Prior to the arrival of The Human League, the punters were put in the party mood by the sound of Jolly Music ‘Radio Jolly (ADULT. De-funked Remix)’ blasting out of the soundsystem. This then gave away at 9pm to the intro tape which was ‘Allegro Con Fuoco’ from Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra & Vladimir Ashkenazy. On its completion the giant stage curtain fell to the floor and revealed the impressive tiered gleaming white stage set, which Phil Oakey informed us was his favourite ever set, although he has thus far taken out two little chunks of the stairs with his shoes. Mind you, this was not as embarrassing as when Phil fell over at their Brighton Dome 12th December 2003 concert (which incidentally saw an amazing support slot that night from former Ultravox! frontman John Foxx). That Brighton Dome concert which was recorded live for a video release titled ‘The Human League – Live At The Dome’ I can remember at the time Phil stating “Oh don’t worry, they will edit that out”.
Indeed tonight’s stage set was rather impressive, it had moving video graphics broadcast onto it from the rear of the South Balcony, by some rather decent kit indeed.
Tonight’s musicians were: Phil Oakey (vocals and continually striding around the set for the duration of their 88 minute set), the blond haired Susan Ann Sulley (vocals), the dark haired Joanne Catherall (vocals), Rob Barton (on drums and percussion), Ben Smith (on keyboards), Nick Banks (on keyboards and guitar) and lastly hidden behind a stage staircase was David Beevers (on programming), who once raised his arm up and waved to us on Phil’s instruction. That was all we saw of him.
They opened their 19 song set with ‘Mirror Man’ from their 1983 ‘Fascination!’ album. This saw the girls carefully walking down the stage stairs and with slim Phil temporarily stationed at the top of the high-rise stage. The tune was the first of seven numbers the artists played, prior to performing ‘DARE’ in its entirety in correct tracklisting order.
These days The Human League live experience is very much like the original ‘DARE’ album cover, shiny and a decent quality product. The League are now very much professional showbiz, which is a far cry from their MkI synth punk beginnings as a quartet of Sheffield fellas who attracted the trench coat brigade. I will always remember when I first discovered them, it was late one night, Tuesday 6th November 1979 to be precise, and I came back home and on the TV was a show called ‘Mainstream’ and I immediately saw this otherworldly chap with two haircuts in one (short on his left with long hair on his right) singing in a spoken deadpan voice, whilst behind him there was a trio of men playing keyboards and selecting graphics for the screen, whilst a tape machine’s wheels went around under them. This was sensational and they sounded as though they had walked out of a spaceship that had arrived from the future and were going to colonise us with their sounds, and indeed for the past 40 years they have. The song in question was ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’ and it appeared on their debut album titled ‘Reproduction’, which had dropped on 11th October 1979. You can share that experience, by watching the video HERE. Note how futuristic they look as compared with the show presenter.
Back to the Brighton Centre and ‘Tell Me When’, ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’, ‘Heart Like A Wheel’ and ‘The Lebanon’ were all given an outing. I merrily sang along to them all to my heart’s content. ‘The Lebanon’ was arguably one of the set highlights, but to be honest, there were many, just as there were many costume changes from the trio of vocalists. Phil disappeared backstage for the next number as Susan Ann Sulley took the lead vocals for ‘One Man In My Heart’ from their 1995 ‘Octopus’ album. Mind you back then she was going under the Susanne Sulley guise. In fact, these days Phil Oakey is known as Philip Oakey, but I just can’t call him that as he will always be Phil Oakey to me!
So for the next tune, ‘Human’ (from the 1986 ‘Crash’ album), Phil made a reappearance with a new smartly cut suit. The band’s wardrobe these days is to me extremely stylish and comes as part of the whole performance package. The Human League is a well oiled machine that keeps on pumping out the hits tour after tour and fans continue to attend their shows, even in this current uncertain climate, virtually all of the seats were occupied.
It was now time to move on to the Phil Oakey collaboration with new producer Martin Rushent album – ‘DARE’. Of these ten tracks, I most certainly would have to draw your attention to ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ as it was exceptional and saw the guys with the keytars wandering around the stage. ‘Do Or Die’ was also terrific and quite possibly the closest The Human League ever came to sounding like ex bandmates Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, who went off to form B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation). This was a band/production company which became largely eclipsed by its best-known project, Heaven 17 (with lead singer Glenn Gregory).
‘I Am The Law’ when released was arguably their last nod to Mk1 Human League with a deep bass synth and only Phil on vocals. However the following number, ‘Seconds’ with its synth drumming led sound was totally immense tonight and it made the hairs in my arms and on the back of the neck stand on end. Song of the night, without doubt!
Oh look it’s time for ‘Don’t You Want Me’, time to get your mobiles out. However it’s not my favourite HL song, that award goes to its predecessor ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’, although tonight ‘Seconds’ was enjoyed more.
It was encore time and ‘Being Boiled’ sounded great and had for me the best lighting of the night. The set concluded with the Giorgio Mordoer and Phil Oakley hit single ‘Together In Electric Dreams’.
In conclusion, pure showmanship! A band that is now packing out arenas larger than they did during the time of ‘DARE’ 40 years ago! Thus, tonight was right up there as one of the very best concerts of the year. I even purchased a souvenir tour programme, that’s something I haven’t done for decades! Dear Human League, “Tell me when will I see you again?”
The Human League:
Phil Oakey – vocals
Susan Ann Sulley – vocals
Joanne Catherall – vocals
Rob Barton – drums/percussion
Ben Smith – keyboards
Nick Banks – keyboards/guitar
David Beevers – programming
The Human League setlist:
(Intro tape): ‘Allegro Con Fuoco’ (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra & Vladimir Ashkenazy)
‘Mirror Man’ (found on 1983 ‘Fascination!’ album)
‘Tell Me When’ (found on 1995 ‘Octopus’ album)
‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ (found on 1983 ‘Fascination!’ album)
‘Heart Like A Wheel’ (found on 1990 ‘Romantic?’ album)
‘The Lebanon’ (found on 1984 ‘Hysteria’ album)
‘One Man In My Heart’ (found on 1995 ‘Octopus’ album)
‘Human’ (found on 1986 ‘Crash’ album)
‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Open Your Heart’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Darkness’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Do Or Die’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Get Carter’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘I Am The Law’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Seconds’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Don’t You Want Me’ (found on 1981 ‘Dare’ album)
‘Being Boiled’ (found on 1978 ‘Being Boiled’/‘Circus Of Death’ single & 1980 ‘Travelogue’ album
‘Together In Electric Dreams’ (Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder cover) (found on 1985 ‘Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’ album)
Find out more by visiting www.thehumanleague.co.uk
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