Heaven 17 at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Despite enjoying a commercially and critically successful run in the early to mid-1980s, Heaven 17 only began performing live in 1997, long after their Top 40 fame had declined. Undeterred by their being overshadowed by sibling band The Human League, Heaven 17’s fan base has remained vast and loyal, exhibiting an impressive tour record since 1997, increasing over the last couple years. With Burger King employing the use of their timeless 1983 single Temptation and regular duets with popular modern acts such as La Roux, Heaven 17 has been able to stay relevant and familiar to the modern pop listener.
This explains the assorted crowd at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. While the crowd was largely made up of married forty-somethings whose first romance had its soundtrack provided courtesy of Heaven 17, a younger crowd was also present. Teenagers whose attire paid homage to Philip Oakey and Adam Ant along with a Japanese girl who travelled from Tokyo to see Heaven 17 helped diversify the lively crowd.
Originally a trio, now a duo, they began by performing their 1983 album The Luxury Gap in its entirety, much to the audiences delight. Arm waving and fist pumping were the main movements of the crowd coupled with Heaven 17’s anthemic, synth-laden choruses, making for a sing-along vibe. Temptation shone above the rest, and was exceptionally praised. Carol Kenyon, the track’s original female vocalist, was replaced with a back-up singer whose voice did the original track more than justice, but improved it. Factoring in a powerful yet soulful vocal range, the timeless track was given a modern revamp in an age where Adele’s voice holds so many listeners in its clasp. The audience’s ovation for Temptation was by far the greatest of the night.
Heaven 17 continued with various songs from their earlier album Penthouse and Pavement and their later album How Men Are. Amongst these was a standout cover performance of The Righteous Brother’s You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, an atmospheric and almost eerie take on the classic, one that seemingly had more heartbreak in its composition and delivery.
A great show – nostalgic for some, educational for others, but enjoyable for all.
Photos: Helen Parish
For more information on Heaven 17 and tours, visit their website here.