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Live Review: Human League, Pseudo Echo

14 December 2017 | 3:51 pm | Guido Farnell

"After indicating that the band have flown in from a freezing Sheffield, he complains about the current heatwave, only to then perform 'Being Boiled' in a white raincoat."

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Tonight provides a loving look back on the swashbuckling new romantics of the early '80s who got guys to get into black eyeliner, saw us getting around all dressed up looking like Pirates Of The Caribbean and popularised some really crazy, gelled-up hairstyles.

While it's a style that looks unlikely to be revived any time soon, the early '80s are a time that many fans assembled at the Palais obviously hold close to their heart. Fans in front of us remember good times at the Autumnal Park launch at The Club in Collingwood over 30 years ago, something that cold only be a Bladerunner-esque implanted memory for most.

Brian Canham, the only remaining original member of Pseudo Echo has recruited a talented bunch of musicians to get him through the 45-minute set. Shedding the new romantic excesses, Canham looks like a seasoned lounge lizard with a whole lot of flamboyance going on in the margins that would do Boy George proud. Among songs like A Beat For You, Listening and Love An Adventure, Pseudo Echo deal faithful covers of Real Life's Send Me An Angel and Ike & Tina Turner's Nutbush City Limits, which might even be the band's next single. Perhaps the most endearing thing about their set is the fact that, with two keytar players, Pseudo Echo have not tried to become rockers and completely sell-out their synth roots. An extended version of Funkytown, which evolves into AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and back, is Pseudo Echo's musical signature and it never seems to fail in getting everyone on their feet and dancing.

Ironically, the band who Bowie once called the future of pop music are here to play a thoroughly retro set. The first time Human League played at Palais Theatre was some 35 years ago in 1982. There are quite a few in the crowd who have fond memories of that gig, too. Sky kicks the show off, but it's Mirror Man that brings the crowd to their feet.

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Phil Oakey's voice has not changed a bit in all this time. Tonight's show is all about the band's post-crossover moments and the success that the nearly perfect Dare album brought. Prior to Dare, Human League had a fierce reputation for their experimental electro-pop on Reproduction and Travelogue, but, while Oakey remained something of a synth nerd, he evolved and developed the capacity to write these synth-pop nuggets with big hooks. It is also interesting that while Oakey doesn't have a spectacularly powerful voice, he's written these songs around his vocal abilities so he never comes off sounding naff. These songs have timeless appeal and every song from Dare elicits a huge roar of approval from the crowd.

The darker Seconds is a highlight and remains a fan-favourite. While Todd Terje paid tribute to Yellow Magic Orchestra earlier this week, Human League play Behind The Mask, their oddball collaboration with YMO. Concentrating solely on working the crowd, the band are backed by a trio of musicians that, pretty much like Pseudo Echo, feature two keytar players and a drummer, although The Human League utilise an electric drum kit. While Pseudo Echo played on red instruments, every instrument Human League play is a crisp white.

Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall come at us in the most stunning evening gowns, and are surely the most glamorous on stage. Oakey comes in his own brand of quirky fashion statements. Initially wearing a sleeveless black (p)leather trench coat, he later exchanges black for white. After indicating that the band have flown in from a freezing Sheffield, he complains about the current heatwave, only to then perform Being Boiled in a white raincoat. While we are treated to Love Action (I Believe In Love) and Fascination!, The Things That Dreams Are Made Of doesn't feature tonight. Don't You Want Me with an extended intro predictably has the crowd bouncing. It's not a song by Human League, strictly speaking, but a collaboration between Oakey and Moroder, Together In Electric Dreams, that provides a gloriously feel good moment to round off the evening.