The Human League: It could’ve all been so different

In a parallel electronic universe, the Human League could’ve been a cult industrial act, instead of one of the most celebrated synth-pop acts of all time. Formed in 1977 by Phil Oakey, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, the band’s early works as The Future had more in common with the left-field synth abstractions of fellow Sheffield act Cabaret Voltaire.

But after Ware and Marsh left to form Heaven 17, Oakey performed one of the great revamps in pop – recruiting singers Joanne Catherall and Anne Sulley and producer Martin Rushent for the 1981 album Dare, and some of the most timeless classics of the era.

The nostalgia will be high at their Belfast gig tonight, with most of the set in Belfast from the 1981-90 period, including Don’t You Want Me, Fascination and Love Action.

But ever the contrarian Oakey still dips into the Human League’s dark past – and Being Boiled is still a powerful, dark anti-anthem, from its dystopian view of slaughter for fashion, to its primitive, rusty industrial synths.

  • The Human League play Custom House Square in Belfast tonight (Friday)