THE STEEL CITY TOUR is a thrilling glimpse of the once- future through the lens of the past. What these groups attempted in Sheffield at the end of the ’70s was to take things somewhere new, buy their synths and look outside the narrow prescriptions of the London media scene. Hence you had the Human League singing the Righteous Brothers, Heaven 17 parodying big business and ABC wanting to put Bob Dylan to the disco beat.
Nearly 30 years on, their numbers still all stack up. Heaven 17 were jaunty and funky, and in ‘Temptation’, probably had the best overall song of the night – jaunty northern soul updated for the high Thatcher era. ABC are the only act here tonight with a new album, Traffic, that has received favourable press. Martin Fry plays three fab tracks from it. The hand waving starts again for ‘All Of My Heart’, ‘Show Me’ and ‘Date Stamp’: stone to the bone classics, delivered perfectly.
But it is the League’s show. A huge bank of lights and projections assert their importance over the proceedings. This is high-grade proper synthpop, delivered perfectly. Phil Oakey looks like Dr No rushing to the lav; but he is the guv’nor – ex Leaguer and H17 honcho Martyn Ware looks down from the balcony at all this opulence still with a possible air of a Bullseye contestant looking at the speedboat that he could have won. Marvellous.
© Daryl Easlea, Record Collector, February 2009