Tag Archive: Heaven 17

Heaven 17 @ Town Hall, Birmingham UK, Friday 14 February 2014

So on this Valentine’s eve, storms are plummeting the UK but in Brum the weather isn’t too bad, although traffic out of town doesn’t look the best. But that’s okay cos we’ve been tempted –  we’re in town and we all be snug and cosy in Birmingham’s Town Hall for an evening of romance, Heaven 17 style.

Indeed Heaven 17 have a back story. Inspired by the godfathers of electronica Kraftwerk, two members of the Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh walked away and formed a band / production company B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation). Initially recording music under the guise of B.E.F., they subsequently recruited photographer Glenn Gregory on vocals and eventually became Heaven 17. Now it is just Gregory and Ware, accompanied by two lasses on vocals and Berenice on supporting keyboards. And no support tonight and we’re told they’ll be promptly on at 8pm and off after an hour and 10. Early night for us then. It’s about half full in the beautiful Town Hall, if it be a tad austere. So it’ll be interesting, to see if Heaven 17 can deliver in such a venue, especially that all that is on on stage, against the black- clothed backdrop, are two keyboards and four mike stands.

Cheers from the crowd as Ware, then Gregory in dapper suit, takes to the stage. First up League song ‘Circus of Death’. This is Heaven 17’s first gig of 2014 (although Ware quips that Gregory still thinks  it’s 1981 or earlier). The beat delivers us next ‘known’ track (given that when it was originally released, at a time when most kids listened to Radio 1, DJ Mike Read effectively banned it due to its left wing lyrics.) ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ comes across great live; Gregory’s voice is still strong, deep and sultry. There is no ‘set’, no exotic lighting or effects –  just these guys performing. They are indeed be great live (I’ve seen them before) but not sure this is the best venue for them especially given as we’re seated.  But even up here in the dizzying heights of the Circle, people are on their feet and dancing as we’re into ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry.’

Gregory quips that he was learning lyrics on the way here, as they deliver ‘Play to Win.’ Most the crowd are on their feet now and the atmosphere is indeed beginning to permeate through the venue. “Don’t sit down again….” Gregory orders the crowd in a friendly way, as they deliver us ‘Geisha Boys and Temple Girls’. And now another early League track, ‘Black Hit of Space’, as Ware gets to play with his theremin (as he moves his hand between the electronic antennas we get a spooky Dr Who-like effect).

We’re promised they’re writing a new album  which may be with us by the end of the year (but maybe not it’s been a fair few years since the last new release). The band explain that its like a creative love fest, without the sex. “It’s like being married then..” shouts an audience member.

‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’ is followed by the sultry and smoozy ‘Come With Me’; a great rendition that goes down well. Happy Valentines indeed Birmingham.  Next track, we feel like we are waiting for aliens to land, and electronica (plus the theremin) gets noticeably spooky, bizarrely this is ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’; Gregory’s vocals are incredibly powerful against the electronic backdrop. He’s accompanied by Ware (who’s vocal may not quite match the power of his colleague). “He’s my Valentine…”  – Gregory points to Ware and we all laugh.

And next up a track that ‘kills’ Gregory every time he performs it live ‘We Live So Fast’, which indeed cranks up the pace  faster and faster… ‘I’m Your Money’ accompanied by a joke that it was written last week, as they’re living in the present and not thirty years ago.

Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ – Gregory’s powerful vocals cover one of the legend’s tracks, however it lacks the powerful bluesy guitar of the original. Interpreted pretty true to the original,  it would have been nice to see the guys play around B.E.F. style  Then Ware’s and Gregory’s favourite Heaven 17 song ‘Let Me Go’, before the 12 inch mega house-influenced remix, with a bit of ‘Love to Love You Baby’,  that is their classic hit ‘Temptation.’ It very nearly blows the roof off.

Quick break and they’re back, “Let’s keep put in the party mood…” as Heaven 17 deliver us ‘Penthouse and Pavement’. Next song dedicated to the local club night where they’ve PA’d –  ‘Only After Dark.’ Clap. Clap Clap. Clap. Listen to the voice of Buddha, we are indeed as we’re into the League’s ‘Being Boiled.’

The set thankfully was longer than anticipated – Heaven 17 gave us 1 hour and 35 of their time. I’m not sure this is the best venue for them –  they are more suited to a more intimate, club type venue where we can all get down and party. And indeed they gave us some stand out tracks tonight ‘Come With Me’, ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and ‘Temptation’ very possibly the stand out. Bit more of a mixed set than I’ve seen before but still a good punt. They will be out over the summer in the 80s ‘Rewind’ festivals and, if they get their act together, I would suspect will be back with their new album in tow. Be tempted.

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Setlist
Circus of Death
We Don’t Need This (Fascist Groove Thang)
Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
Play to Win
Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
Dive
Black Hit of Space
Let’s All Make A Bomb
Come Love With Me
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
We Live So Fast
I’m Your Money
Boys Keep Swinging
Let Me Go
Temptation

Encore:
Penthouse and Pavement
Only After Dark
Being Boiled

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Listening:
Heaven 17 – The Luxury Gap (1983)
BEF  – ‘Music For Stowaways’ and ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction Vol.1’

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Review for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken Harrison.

Heaven 17 @ O2 Academy 2, Birmingham, 29th November 2012

Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Ken Harrison,

A Monday autumnal night and later start time for the gig (8.30pm on stage) Heaven 17 are here to show us just how great they are and I have so say I’m looking forward to it!

As we arrive tonight we find the gig has been relocated, from the main Academy 1 to Academy 2, a room which holds about a sixth of the capacity of the main room. Given that when Heaven 17 toured a couple of years ago with ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ the played the main room at the HMV Institute, while then they may not have sold out the venue it was pretty full – this change in location is quite a surprise.

As with so many early eighties bands, Heaven 17 have a story; original band line-up split, morphed and did something entirely different. Inspired by the godfathers of electronica Kraftwerk, at the turn of the 80s, two members of the Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh walked away and formed a band / production company B.E.F. (British Electronic Foundation). Initially recording music under the guise of BEF, they subsequently recruited photographer Glenn Gregory on vocals, and eventually became Heaven 17.

Tonight’s venue is already pretty cosy in the crowd as we enter; at 8.10, blue neon LED lights beam messages from the tiny stage, and the music blares out, 12″ classics from the 80s – Blancmange’s ‘Living on the Ceiling’, Japan’s ‘Quiet Life’. Just to get us in the mood.

Dry ice permeates from the stage and seeps across the room and we begin to feel like sardines crammed in this tiny room. 8.30 on come Heaven 17 – a smart looking Glenn Gregory (lead vocals) and Martyn Ware (synthesizers, vocals) supported by female vocalist Billie Godfrey, Asa Bennett (guitar), Joel Farland (electronic percussion) and Randy Hope-Taylor (bass).

‘The Luxury Gap’ peaked at number 4 in the UK charts and gave us some of Heaven 17’s iconic hits. And tonight they’re playing it in its entirety and start off with the crashing ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry.’ Sometimes in this venue the sound can be ear-shatteringly loud – but tonight it’s just right, great balance and sound. Gregory: “Hello Birmingham!” as he goes on to relate how they would journey down to Birmingham for the clubs years ago “… far better than Leeds or Manchester…” And then into their favourite track ‘Let Me Go.’ Heaven 17 are a class act – vocals from Gregory and Godfrey are great – especially on the powerhouse track that is ‘Temptation’ (album version) – equally as powerful today as it was twenty years ago. And as they go through the various tracks – we thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

Post ‘Luxury Gap’ we’re treated to a rendition of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ Martyn joining in on vocals, he’s out from behind his keyboards. Gregory: ” The last time he did that was 22 years ago with Phil Oakey…. he’s a new boyfriend – I’m his bitch now….” Crowd laugh. ” Love it…. we get him out from behind his keyboard- only ever the second time ever he’s done this….”

And then we boogie on down to ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Grove Thang’. This track originally got limited radio play due to Radio 1 DJ Mike Read effectively banning it due to its left wing lyrics, leaving debut album ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ outside the Charts, at a time when the Top 40  was key to success. It was ‘The Luxury Gap’ that really gave them commercial success.…

‘I’m Your Money’ is dedicated to local club night Only After Dark, followed by the aptly named final track from first album ‘ We’re Gonna Live For A Very Long Time’ which indeed  lasts for a very long time. And to top off the set, we have a Human League classic: ‘Being Boiled.’

Encore gives us a stunning version of The Associates ‘Party Fears Two’, a track Heaven 17 play to honour Associate Billie McKenzie who committed suicide. A sad loss and hear-rending rendition. And then in this packed, hot (and now smelly) venue, drenched with dry ice, the stage flooded in red light, the 12″ House driven remix of ‘Temptation’ complete with morph into ‘Love To Love You Baby.’

Heaven 17 are very possibly one of the best nostalgia electronica bands out on the touring scene. They’re a tight act, Gregory’s vocals accompanied by Godfrey are truly awesome. My only downside on tonight’s gig was the venue – it was rammed to distraction. Next time Heaven 17, there are better venues in Birmingham – don’t let them downgrade the venue, I want to dance, enjoy and love your gig.

If you get a chance to catch them on this tour – go for it. You will truly have a blast!

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Setlist:

  1. Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
  2. Who’ll Stop The Rain
  3. Let Me Go
  4. Key to the World
  5. Temptation (short)
  6. Come Live With Me
  7. Lady Ice and Mr Hex
  8. We Live So Fast
  9. The Best Kept Secret
  10. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  11. (We Don’t Need That) Fascist Groove Thang
  12. Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
  13. I’m Your Money
  14. We’re Going To Live For A Very Long Time
  15. A Crow and a Baby
  16. Penthouse and Pavement
  17. Being Boiled

 

Encore:

18. Party Fears Two

19. Temptation (Long)

 

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Listening:

Heaven 17 – The Luxury Gap (1983)

BEF  – ‘Music For Stowaways’ and ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction Vol.1’

The Associates – Singles (2007)

Heaven 17 @ HMV Institute, 26th November 2010

Tonight it’s off to the new HMV Institute to see, what appears from the promotions, something different from your average gig – part concert and part art installation – courtesy of Heaven 17.

As part of  H17’s ‘Penthouse & Pavement 30th Anniversary UK Tour’ there will be a “live digital visual show, featuring some of the biggest names and most talented up-and-coming artists from the worlds of digital and graphic design, fine art and film.”

We are promised something different - a world-first multimedia show – right from when we walk into the venue – this should be interesting….

So first the venue – the first time I’ve been to the Institute since it morphed into it’s current HMV Institute incarnation. What a delight! Finally a glorious, small, intimate venue that Birmingham deserved and sorely missed. With great sound. And hopefully this time with the backing of the Mean Fiddler group it will survive. No more need to traipse down to London for such a venue – all we need now is a great line up of acts playing there!

Bit of background is needed, as like so many early eighties bands, original band line-ups split, morphed and did something different.  And these guys were another group inspired by the godfathers of electronic Kraftwerk. Right at the turn of the 80s, two members of the Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh walked away and formed a band / production company B.E.F. (British Electronic Foundation). Initially recording music under the guise of BEF, they subsequently recruited photographer Glenn Gregory on vocals, and became Heaven 17 (taking their name from the fictional pop group ‘The Heaven Seventeen’ from the classic film ‘A Clockwork Orange’).

So as I arrive, and set up camp on the balcony, in good view of the stage I am meet with a DJ with decks and 12″ vinyl records (remember them?) with three graphic LED panels. I’m not convinced this is a full art installation, but he’s playing classic 80s – Soft Cell’s ‘Memorabilia’, Blancmange’s ‘Living on the Ceiling’, and Devo’s ‘Whip It.’ The audience sing along. Then it’s off with the DJ and some B.E.F. Music with retro graphics on the displays. Still not convinced about the ‘world first multimedia show’ – OMD managed 3D lazer graphics at the start of their recent gig…

So then here we go – on stage come Heaven 17 –  featuring original founding members, a smart looking Glenn Gregory (lead vocals) and Martyn Ware (synthesizers, vocals and bizarrely wearing purple winkle pickers!)  supported by Billie Godfrey (backing vocals), Asa Bennett (guitar), Joel Farland (electronic percussion) and Randy Hope-Taylor (bass). The other founding member, Ian Craig Marsh, left the band during their years of hiatus in the mid noughties.

‘Penthouse and Pavement’ was released in 1981. And Heaven 17 play it tonight in track order. In ’81, while the Human League began to have commercial success, Heaven 17 found life more difficult with the first single (and first track of the evening) ‘(We don’t need this) Fascist Grove Thang’ getting limited radio play due to  Radio 1 DJ Mike Read effectively banning it due to its left wing lyrics. At a time when the Top 40  was key to success, none of the singles from this album broke into the charts.  It would be a further two years before they really made commercial success….

“The first time in 30 years in it’s entirety – why didn’t we do this before?” Gregory stated after the first song, only to regret it later in the set. After ‘Civil Warefare’ – “Too many words in the song – we never intended to play it live – I’ve a memory of a goldfish!”

After the first side of the album, an interlude of a couple of  BEF tracks: ‘Ball of Confusion’ originally sung by Tina Turner, now with the stunning vocals of Billie Godfrey, and then Gregory singing a cover of Glenn Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’.

Then there was an acoustic treat, an cheeky rendition of a sister band’s classic 80’s hit,  the whole audience sang along – “Martyn won’t like this,” said Gregory, “Don’t mention it to Phil (Oakey) – our newfound friendship will be over!”

Then they ‘turned the album over, wiped it with their sleeve’ and onto side two of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’. Slight hiccup when the boys, nearly forgot ’A Song with No Name’, they completed the album with ‘We’re gonna live for a very long time’ – to a rapturous applause from the audience.

But the gig didn’t finish there, Heaven 17 switch to the hits and crank up the audience. ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry’, ‘Come Live with Me’ and the band’s favourite song ‘Let Me Go’ followed by a stunning dance 12 ” remix of ‘Temptation’ which was just jaw dropping.

Off and then back on for an encore – with the good question of how do you follow that? Well they did and then some – first track ( a newer song) ‘I’m Gonna Make You Fall in Love with Me’ was okay, then followed by a stunning version of The Associates ‘Party Fears Two’, a track Heaven 17 first played to honour Associate Billie McKenzie who committed suicide. A sad loss and hear-rending rendition.

Then – a treat-  a classic Human League song written by Ware, Craig Marsh and Phil Oakey. ‘Being Boiled.’ An awesome and stunning finale.

H17 were truly stunned by the audience reaction, you could tell they thoroughly enjoyed the gig, as much as the audience did. ‘We will return next year’ said Ware. If you get a chance to see Heaven 17, forget the art installation, reminisce about classic 12″ collector vinyl, cough up  £20 (which is what tonight’s prices were) and be prepared to be blown away!

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Setlist:

Side A: Penthouse and Pavement.

  1. (We Don’t Need This) Facist Grove hTang
  2. Penthouse and Pavement
  3. Play to Win
  4. Soul Warfare

Interlude:

  1. Ball of Confusion (BEF)
  2. Wichita Lineman (BEF)
  3. Don’t You Want Me (Human League Cover)

 

Side B: Penthouse and Pavement

  1. Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
  2. Let’s All Make a Bomb
  3. The Height of Fighting (He-La-Hu)
  4. Song with No Name
  5. We’re Going to Live for a Very Long Time

 

Hits:

  1. I’m Your Money
  2. Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
  3. Come with Me
  4. Let Me Go
  5. Temptation

 

Encore:

  1. I’m Gonna Make You Fall in Love with Me
  2. Party Fears Too (The Associates Cover)
  3. Being Boiled (Human League)

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Listening:

Heaven 17 – Penthouse and Pavement (1981) digitally remastered (2010)

BEF  – ‘Music For Stowaways’ and ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction Vol.1’

The Associates – Singles (2007)