Wednesday 7 November 2012

Heaven 17, Bournemouth 1st November 2012

Heaven 17, originally half of the Human League (arguably the more interesting half) and '80s hit havers in their own right with, especially, the massive "Temptation".

My wife and I had seen H17 at the BIC a couple of years before with ABC and the Human League and enjoyed their brief stint on stage.

When they announced they were doing a tour (and coming to the O2 Academy in Bournemouth, one of my favourite venues) to promote the release of a special edition of their second (1983) album "The Luxury Gap", we decided to go along.

A cold meant my wife didn't feel up to it, so my 20 year old daughter tagged along and, initially, seemed to be the youngest person there by some decades.

These days Martyn Ware looks like a slightly portly Investment Banker or, possibly, Del Trotter's successful brother.

Glenn Gregory's famous blonde mop is long gone, replaced by a shaven head, but he's still quite trim and has an undeniable presence.

They were joined on stage by a waif like backing singer, another, quite young, woman on keyboards, a drummer and two guitarists (one a bass). They were all introduced by name during the gig, but I forget them now, which is a shame.

The initial set involved all the songs, in order, from The Luxury Gap. In a way, this was a bit of a shame as, with no support act, they launched straight into the excellent "Crushed by the Wheels of Industry", but I'm not sure that the audience was quite ready for it and, although there was polite applause, it was us, rather than Heaven 17 who needed warming up.

They then performed the slower "Who'll stop the rain" and "Let Me Go" (which built to an impressive crescendo), before the pacier "Key to the World" (remarkably apposite in a world gone mad with credit and instant gratification) and then their best known (if not, in my opinion, best) track, "Temptation".

"Temptation" relies heavily on the female vocal being able to hit and sustain the notes and, whilst the woman we'd seen at the BIC did a good job, the singer at the Academy was startlingly good! Glenn seems to get an easy ride on this track whilst all the vocal acrobatics are performed by the woman singing, so to do it justice it needed a great performance and that's exactly what it was. Boy, could she belt it out, but she avoided falling into the trap of just being shouty! A remarkably good performance, warmly acknowledged by the knowledgeable crowd.

By now, we were up to speed with the band and another hit, "Come Live with Me" followed, giving us all a little breather, pace wise at least, before "Lady Ice and Mister Hex" which I understand they'd never performed live before this tour, not that it showed as it was great track, excellently delivered.

"We Live So Fast" was another great performance before the album tracks rounded out with a moody performance of "The Best Kept Secret".

Fortunately, H17 have more than one good album, so they were able to deliver us such classics as "Fascist Groove Thang", "Being Boiled", "Babies" (the latter two from Human League days), "Penthouse and Pavement" and a surreal performance of "You've Loved That Loving Feeling" with a totally straight faced Martyn and Glenn standing side by side to deliver it at, what seemed like, 3/4 pace, which was the first non-Luxury Gap track and bridged the gap between album and other tracks perfectly.

Apparently Martyn and Phil Oakey used to do this in the HL days and Glenn had always wanted to perform it with Martyn.

I've always liked Heaven 17 and it was a great pleasure to see that they can still put on a great performance.

Glenn Gregory's voice sounded as good as ever to me and the gusto put into the performance was gratifying for the fairly full house (Martyn Ware commented after the first track that there was a 'big audience', so maybe that spurred them on too).

At one point early on Glenn pointed to someone right at the front and said "We must have the youngest member of our audience ever here! How old are you? 10!", so my daughter suddenly ceased to be the youngest member of the audience BY a decade, although I'd be surprised if there were more than 20 people there under 45.

A wallow in nostalgia then? Yes of course, but, as my daughter commented, surprisingly good without that and still well worth going to see!

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