I have a confession to make. I have seen Heaven 17 play live more than any other band. Their debut album, Penthouse and Pavement is in my personal top five of all albums ever. That album is 35 years old this year and that’s a scary thought. But Heaven 17 are one of those bands that you can never see enough of. They are professional and funny, sometimes reminding me of Morcambe and Wise with their banter. They can guarantee you a good night out.
So with all that in mind I headed off to the Jazz Café. These tickets were supposed to have been for an event in May but the Jazz Café has undergone a fantastic refurbishment, so the gig was postponed until October. Rule number one when you are only 5ft tall is to get there early to guarantee yourself the front row. But I was in good company with all the Heaven 17 die-hards – some of whom go to every gig and follow them around the country.
The anticipation grows and soon enough we wait no more as some BEF electronic music plays and they walk on stage. The first track is Circus of Death. Not the most obvious opening track but of course for those who don’t know, Martyn Ware (along with previous founder member Ian Craig Marsh) founded The Human League and this a rare outing for this track. The evening is pitted with THL tracks and we are lucky enough to hear Black Hit of Space, Loving Feeling and of course Being Boiled. Fans of early Human League were in their element.
Our next track is a brand new track which they have never played live before. EVER!. It’s called ‘Captured’ and the single was only released the day before so when I say brand new…I really mean it. They joke to the audience that they now have half an album of new songs so maybe by 2020 we will see an album release. And then we are straight back to classic Heaven 17 with Fascist Groove Thang. Glenn asks who would vote for Martyn as PM – everyone here would. Fascist Groove Thang, or to use its full title for extra points (We don’t need this) Fascist Groove Thang, has lyrics that are still as relevant today as they were 35 years ago. Indeed, it might be even more poignant with Brexit, a Tory Government and the USA having a possible President called Trump. These lyrics are simply genius.
What makes the gigs at the Jazz Café with Heaven 17 extra special is they perform tracks we hardly ever hear them perform. On this occasion we had Trouble and Contenders. Both these tracks have not had the recognition they deserve and are brilliant tracks. Come Live With Me has the audience joining in so loudly that although Martyn told us it got to number 5 in the charts, it really should be a number one single with the love for it in this room.
One of my personal favourites is We’re Gonna Live For a Very Long Time. It’s such an upbeat track and the electronics are so pure. And when Glenn opens his arms it’s like he is preaching to the congregation. If you love Heaven 17, you will live for a very long time! More P&P tracks included Play to Win and Penthouse and Pavement. I couldn’t be singing more loudly if I wanted to. Glenn says his favourite early Human League track was the cover version of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Martyn comes out from behind his keyboard and they sing together. It’s so lovely how they interact. They obviously enjoy each other’s company and have a good laugh on stage.
During Temptation, Glenn sings with me ’Love to love you baby’ (another advantage of being front row) and mouths to me ‘Happy Birthday’. Of course this makes my day. They go off for a well-deserved break and come back on for an encore. It feels so right and proper that their encore should include two Bowie songs. It feels like it was arranged just for me as both Glenn and Martyn know I am a huge Bowie fan. Glenn and Berenice cover Life on Mars and once again the audience is so loud joinin in singing, that Glenn asks for the piano to be louder to he can hear it. I love Glenn singing Bowie. He does it justice and I know he is a huge Bowie fan too. Martyn and Billie and Rachel all come back on stage for Boys Keep Swinging. After this I show Glenn my tattoo. Don’t worry – it’s on my wrist and is a tribute to Bowie. He looks at it then tells everyone it’s my birthday and wishes me a happy birthday so the whole audience now know it’s my birthday. I don’t mind. Its lovely to feel I have such a lovely Heaven 17 family around me. It’s a double celebration as Keith and Chezzie celebrate their 50th H17 gig. They finish with Being Boiled. The first song Martyn ever wrote. It’s a fitting tribute that the last song is the first song.
And with that the gig is over – but the feeling of exhilaration continues long into the night. Of course Martyn and Glenn come over and say hello and wish me a happy birthday in a more personal setting and sign the set list with ‘Happy b-day.’
So as I mentioned – I have seen Heaven 17 live more than any other band, but this isn’t the end. I do not have to wait long as they have an upcoming tour of 35 years of Penthouse & Pavement plus BEF. This is truly heaven!
Details of the tour can be found on their website: http://www.heaven17.com/