Delayed by well over a year due to Covid, the twice rescheduled and long awaited Heaven 17 performance of The Human League’s first two albums finally took place at the original London venue where it was first intended. Sheffieldian band founders Glenn Gregory and former Human League member Martyn Ware did the production they had been planning for 10 years, albeit without the participation of Human League frontman Phil Oakey despite their best efforts.

With four screens of slide visuals in the background, they launched straight into The Human’s League’s 1979 debut album ‘Reproduction’ with first track ‘Almost Medieval’, before playing the band’s debut single and b-side, ‘Circus Of Death’, the latter featuring its darkly dizzying climbing synth scales. Gregory reminisced about the founding of The Human League whom he met as a photographer in London and paid tribute to Human League and H17 founder Ian Craig Marsh as they performed more well known songs from the album such as ‘Blind Youth’ and single ‘Empire State Human’, with a poignant duet between Gregory and Ware for cover hit ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’.

During the show there was a rare live presence of the acclaimed graphic designer Malcolm Garrett MBE (Buzzcocks, Simple Minds, Heaven 17) who was on stage with the rest of the band quietly overseeing the visuals across four large mounted screens, which hearkened back to the live performances of The Human League back in 1979.

Then without taking an interval, Heaven 17 moved onto 1980’s ‘Travelogue’ with the futuristic synth tech effects of ‘The Black Hit Of Space’, a while later followed by ‘Dreams Of Leaving’, which had an accompanying short film compiled by Mike Faulkner (D-fuse) of war-torn Syria before Gregory homed in a message of support for refugees across the world. Then the glassy glockenspeil tones of instrumental track ‘Toyota City’ illustrated the depths of The Human League’s musical abilities at that time.

Heaven 17 continued the rendition of the album on their own version of ‘Being Boiled’, which Gregory visualised as being written in Sheffield in 1978 on a two-track machine “just like that” and credited as one of the greatest electronic tracks ever written. They finished the set on some bonus songs from the album with ‘Marianne’ and covers ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll/Nightclubbing’.

For the encore they played from their own catalogue beginning on their debut single ‘(We Don’t Need) This Fascist Groove Thang’, which Gregory described as coming hot out of the ashes of The Human League split in 1980 when he returned to Sheffield to form the band that would become Heaven 17 alongside Ware and Marsh. The band finished the night on ‘Temptation’ which saw their two female backing singers, who are officially part of the Heaven 17 lineup, takeover on vocals to blistering heights, leaving food for thought ahead of their ‘Greatest Hits’ show in November.

05/09/21: Heaven 17 perform ‘Reproduction’ + Travelogue’ @ Roundhouse, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.