CONCERT REVIEW : Heaven 17, Glasgow O2 Academy, Thursday 25th November 2021


Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware are back on tour to promote Heaven 17’s 40th anniversary, though due to the recent lockdown and covid outbreak and with everything being shelved, it’s now technically welcome to the 41st Anniversary Tour! And the crowds braved the cold, wet wintery night in Glasgow to do just that, and turned up in their droves to see the 80s legends perform the hits plus a few more select choices.

First up was support act Pete Wylie, former front man with The Mighty Wah, who warmed up the crowd with his short set and included the songs Come Back, Sinful and The Story of the Blues.  He closed his set with a cover of the Johnny Thunders classic You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory, and the stage was cleared ready for the main act.

Heaven 17 were established in 1980 and evolved from the break up of The Human League, with keyboard wizards Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh recruiting Glenn Gregory to front the new band, allowing for Phil Oakey to carry on the remains as The Human League.  Both bands saw great success in the 80s new wave / electro pop scene, and tonight’s set would see H17 cover tracks from their first three albums with a couple of covers thrown in for good measure.

Opening with The Height of the Fighting from the 1981 debut album Penthouse and Pavement, the atmosphere was electric with Gregory and Ware on top form and the crowd lapping up every second.  Big numbers followed, (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang, Crushed By The Wheels of Industry and Come Live With Me.  A big wet face cloth couldn’t wipe the smile from Glenn Gregory’s face, with Ware proclaiming the Glasgow audience were already the best crowd of the tour.   

First cover of the night was an old classic, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, originally recorded by The Righteous Brothers, but also covered by The Human League on their 1979 debut album Reproduction.  It was a chance for Martyn Ware to escape the confines of the keyboard area, and join Glenn in the middle of the stage.  He would soon be back in the safety of his Roland V-Synth GT though!

Closing the main set was Let Me Go, a favourite of Gregory, title track from the debut album Penthouse and Pavement and a barnstorming extended version of the 1983 smash hit Temptation, which nearly lifted the roof from the old venue, crowd participation at its peak and the personnel on stage loving the feedback.  The band took their bows and left the stage for a well-deserved break before returning for a three-track encore.  A second cover of the night, Party Fears Two, was dedicated to Billy McKenzie, the lead singer of Scottish band The Associates, who sadly took his own life in 1997 after a bought of depression.  This was followed by a David Bowie cover, Let’s Dance, hinting to Gregory’s work with Holy Holy, a touring band of ex Bowie acquaintances and final track of the evening Being Boiled, the debut single by The Human League, written by Martyn Ware.  The band left the stage to a rapturous applause, a great evening had by all.

For fans of 80s pop music, this was a tremendous evening.  The music was fab, great vocals by Glenn Gregory supported by backing singers Hayley and Kelly, and keyboards by Martyn Ware alongside Flo Sabeva.  The tunes stand the test of time, with a packed house of fans loving every second and many word perfect on every song.  Time may be marching on, it may well be 40 odd years since the band started out and Gregory has long since swapped the hair gel for the Mr Sheen, but the voice remains the same.  If the band are in town, give in to temptation and see them live.

Review and Photographs by Stephen Wilson