The Human League Sheffield: Big hometown show for 80s superstars who stuck with the city

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There were fears Human League would miss Sheffield out, but the stars who stuck with the city are back

Just a few weeks ago, music fans in Sheffield feared city electropop legends Human League had snubbed the city.

The band who created iconic tracks including Don't You Want Me and (Keep Feeling) Fascination, were playing at Manchester AO Arena and Leeds First Direct Arena, among other venues, on their Generations 2024 UK tour.

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Now we know they are coming home - as one of the biggest names at this year's Tramlines Festival in July. Their tour support act, Sophie Ellis Bextor, is also playing the festival.

The Human League are set to play at the Tramlines 2024 festival in Hillsborough Park, SheffieldThe Human League are set to play at the Tramlines 2024 festival in Hillsborough Park, Sheffield
The Human League are set to play at the Tramlines 2024 festival in Hillsborough Park, Sheffield | Tramlines 2024

For fans, the Sheffield show is important - the band were huge in the 1980s, and were seen as among the most important groups in the evolution of electro pop.

The Human League formed in Sheffield in 1977, and were originally made up of Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, Phil Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright, Wright creating visual effects for the live shows.

They played their first gig at the Wham Bar in Sheffield University Students Union in June 1978.

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One of the most legendary nights in the history of the Sheffield music scene was the night that both the young Human League, and the then fledgling Def Leppard, both performed at the same gig at the famous Limit nightclub on West Street in September 1978. It was free admission.

The Human League's first single, Being Boiled, made the top 10.

But the group later changed radically. Their later line up was created after Oakey brought in Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley, to join him in a three-strong line up. Oakey first met them on the dancefloor of Sheffield's old Crazy Daisy nightclub.

The old Crazy Daisy nightclub on High Street, was at the bottom of Telegraph House, on High Street.The old Crazy Daisy nightclub on High Street, was at the bottom of Telegraph House, on High Street.
The old Crazy Daisy nightclub on High Street, was at the bottom of Telegraph House, on High Street. | Sheffield Newspapers

Under that line up, they went on to become global stars, with Oakey a distinctive figure with a haircut that was unique in the pop world at the time.

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In 1981, things took off globally, with Don't You Want Me Baby a number one in Britain and America.

Other top 10 hits followed, but that was their only UK chart topper, although Human went to number one in America.

Despite their huge stature, while many of Sheffield's biggest stars have moved away after finding fame, the band have gone against that trend, remaining in the area after their huge success.

Singer Susan, a former Frecheville Comp pupil, explained the decision to stay in Sheffield in 2010. She said: @We spent a long time in London but always lived in Sheffield. I think the only reason we stayed here was because my family and Joanne’s live here.

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"We might have moved to Los Angeles or the south of France but not London - we had no desire to do that and it was nice keeping a bit of distance between the record company and us.

"We just came from punk rock - people were saying, 'you can do what you want'. You didn’t have to be trained at music school or have singing lessons.

"We just wrote songs that people could relate to - they were just talking about everyday life, things that everyday folk go through. We never tried to be anything we weren’t."

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