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Live Review: Human League with Performance at London Royal Festival Hall – 10th December 2010

By on Thursday, 23rd December 2010 at 2:00 pm

Wow, what a crazy few weeks it has been. It’s always like it this time of year, a mad rush in the weeks leading up to Christmas before the whole music industry flops for a well-earned rest until mid-January. So this is my lame excuse and apology for such an overdue review of the Human League at the Royal Festival Hall with support from Performance.

I was particularly interested in this gig as I have never been to the Royal Festival Hall, and also, being born in the 80s, I have kind of grown up with The Human League, so I was interested to see them live. Royal Festival Hall certainly lived up to expectations, really high ceilings made for fantastic acoustics….and the seats were really comfortable!

We arrived in time to see the support act, Performance. (You can read more about the band in our Bands to Watch piece on them and our review of their album, Red Brick Heart.) Performance are very like the Human League, which makes no surprise seeing as they are supporting them! They are a 3-piece: vocals, a female guitarist and backing vocalist and an electronic drummer and multi-instrumentalist. Their sound is very 80s but with a current pop twist to every track. Each song had strong choruses and I could see them doing quite well. Unfortunately, the band were a little under-rehearsed and looked dazzled by the size of the crowd. And why shouldn’t they be, for a relatively new band this was a hell of an opportunity for them? On the whole, the band really held it together and it was only a matter of a few relatively minor ‘school boy errors’; missing opening cues, guitar straps falling off and the band starting regardless. They had the crowd’s support, so they got away with these little hiccups. I’d like to catch up with them next year once they have toured some more and ironed out these issues.

So, the stage was set for the Human League; lots of white microphone stands, risers and LED backdrops. I did wonder whether this was going to be a ‘throw away throw back gig’ or whether the band could come back and really impress us. The band opened with one of their best known-tracks, ‘Electric Shock’, to mass applause and an almost standing ovation, where the crowd stayed for the rest of the gig. What a great choice for an opener: everyone was really behind this band and the atmosphere was incredible. People were dancing in the stalls as well as in the boxes (badly) and singing back the lyrics. Oakey was dressed in a long black parka jacket, hood up he commanded the stage, pacing from side to side delivering a perfect vocal with attitude like a seasoned pro. He’s still got it.

(Editor’s note: I really wanted to find a good photo of what Human League look like now [versus what they looked like back in the day] so the header photo is from the Londoneer.)

Continue reading Live Review: Human League with Performance at London Royal Festival Hall – 10th December 2010


Album Review: Performance – Red Brick Heart

By on Friday, 8th October 2010 at 12:00 pm

Performance is a power pop trio from Manchester. Before you start groaning the mention of the term ‘power pop’, which probably conjures up memories of Whitesnake and the Phil Collins-led Genesis, I think this trio has what it takes to make it. A band needs amazing instrumentation and compelling lyrics to win me over, and Performance has both in spades.

‘The Unconsoled’ is the last single Performance has released and as a starting track for ‘Red Brick Heart’, you couldn’t do any better. It comes with Joe Cross’s thumping drums (programmed?) and Joe Stretch’s powerful vocals, supported with Laura Marsden’s angelic backing vocals and swirly guitar work. I can’t stop listening to it. It’s one of those songs that is going to stay in my consciousness for a long time. ‘The Living’ was the single right before ‘The Unconsoled’, and it’s equally great. Stretch sings, “you had the best night / it’s all on your Web site” – I had to laugh to myself, because those lines could have been written about me, I’m always posting everywhere when I’ve had a good (usually gig) night out. I think many music heads can relate. Watch the blindingly white video for the song below. Oh dear, Stretch’s smouldering stare is quite the asset as well…

From a writer’s standpoint, let’s look at the track ‘The Love’. “I miss you like a language” and “I planted kisses but they won’t grow”? Swoon. ‘Red Brick Heart’ is a sweet shop for writers, intellectuals, what have you. You just want to keep sampling everything, and again and again. It might eventually start to feel like a guilty pleasure because the album just feels so right. ‘International’, ‘Let’s Start’ and ‘O Surgeon’ are more winners.

‘Eleanor’, the lone instrumental on ‘Red Brick Heart’, is a surprising and all too short beauty. Not as exciting is ‘Reptile’, which feels like a small misstep compared to the rest of the album, so I can overlook this. Overall, this album is brilliant. Still sceptical? The band is offering a sampler of half of the album. Listen to it and fall in love. Then skedaddle to the music shop (online or otherwise) and get it for your collection.


’Red Brick Heart’ is available now. Performance is supporting fellow Mancunians Hurts tonight (the 8th) in Bristol and tomorrow (Saturday the 9th) in London.


Bands to Watch #195: Performance

By on Monday, 27th September 2010 at 12:00 pm

If you haven’t caught on yet, I have a lot of love for Manchester bands at the moment. Manc trio Performance first came to my attention when I received their single, ‘The Unconsoled’ this summer. I had a listen and was spellbound. The words that crossed my lips? Power pop. Pure, beautiful power pop. In these financially strained times, we could use a band like this. Think about about it: what was kind of music was big in the ’70s and ’80s, during Thatcherism and Reaganomics? Bands like the Cars and Simple Minds. Frankly, it’s high time for popular music to have another wave of power pop to get people up and dancing like they just don’t care and forget all the trouble in their lives.

But let’s back up for a moment to the band’s actual name. I can only imagine how difficult it is to come up with an appropriate moniker for your group’s sound. You’ve got to come up with something catchy and memorable, as well as something that won’t be nonsensically embarrassing years down the road. (Uh, Hootie and the Blowfish?)

I obviously have no idea what was going through the mind of Joe Stretch (lead vocals), Laura Marsden (guitar) and Joe Cross (synths / bass / production) but I don’t think anyone else would have come up with such an elegantly simple yet obvious way to call a band than ‘Performance’. (I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Stretch is a published novelist. Hmmm…I like writers…) On their MySpace they declare “Performance are a pop band. They’re returning in 2010. They dislike phonyism. They struggle with depression. Expect blood, love and an amount of dancing”. Sounds good to me.

Ok, back to ‘The Unconsoled’. It’s a single off their forthcoming second album, ‘Red Brick Heart’, to be released next Monday. Performance’s debut album was released in 2007 (of which only 1,000 CDs were manufactured, then sold through the band’s Web site and in Manchester record shops), so we’ll see how this one does. And where it goes. I, for one, think Performance is a band that will go for miles and miles with their brand of infectious pop.


Performance will open for fellow Mancunians Hurts on the last four dates of their UK tour in October (the 5th in Manchester, the 7th in Birmingham, the 8th in Bristol, and the 9th in London).


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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