The Steel City Tour at the Hammersmith Apollo

Last night the best girlfriend and I went to see ABC, Heaven 17 and The Human League for their inaugural Steel City Tour at the Hammersmith Apollo, that lovely hall next to a motorway in London’s sunny West. I din’t expect the place to be packed, but it certainly was: 5000 happy middle aged punters in a more or less exciteable state made the shabby old place vibrate with joy.

The gig started with ‘Heaven 17’:  the kernel of the British Electric Foundation were in good spirit with Glenn Gregory in fine vocal form and Martyn Ware happily plonking away at the keyboards. They were accompanied by a teenager behind a toy drum kit (well, one of those electronic drum pad thingies), an incredibly bored guitarist with two Macbooks  and two female background singers who could probably be their daughters.Let me go, Come live with me, crushed by the wheels of industry where all delivered in fine form, but unfortunately both ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ and ‘Temptation’ suffered from early nineties dancefloor treatment, making the original songs not quite unrecognisable but barely palatable. Unfortunately the mix was disastrous, with Ware’s keyboard chords completely vanishing behind the (admittedly excellent) vocal performances. So far so good.

ABC (or Martin Fry with a bunch of session musicians, to be exact) was in usual fine form: it seem that the bloke playing lead guitar for him and the percussionist/female lead vocalist have now been the same for the last 3 gigs I have seen them, so at least he doesn’t always have to get to get used to new twentysomethings in his band. As usual he had to get 3 tracks of his new album ‘Traffic in, but apart from that, it was the usual assortment of splendid hits from ‘Lexicon of Love’ and  Alphabet City
. Well deserved applause, even though there was no Gold Lame Suit in site.

After a brief reorganising of stages the headliners of the evening: The Human League in it’s third decade presents itself quite chipper, with a stage right out of a Kraftwerk gig, although what the weird little man in the pirate costume and the guitar was doing on stage I will never find out, but he certainly ruined the carefully crafted picture of understated elegance. There was plenty of things to shout about: the sound, the beautiful white instruments, the costumes and Phil Oakeys voice were all top notch. A good mix between crowd pleasures (Mirror Man, Electric Dreams, Don’t you want me, Being boiled) and some obscure fare delighted everybody. The only person not having any fun was poor Joanne Catherall, who obviously had a bad night: she looked unhappy in her corner of the stage, and I could have sworn she wasn’t well.

So, a bunch of middle aged people were entertained by a bunch of middleaged people on a stage. 3 hours of fun and sing a long. What else could you want?

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