Like contemporary band New Order, the group relied heavily on synthesizers and a particular sound to draw crowds ranging from clubbers to top 40 radio (or at least college radio until they broke through). The band started up in 1977 with several guys led by Philip Oakey but it wasn't until he brought in two gals, Susan Anne Sulley and Joanne Catherall, that the band became popular. The combination of chemistry and pop savvy worked wonders with songs like (Keep Feeling) Fascination, Don't You Want Me, (Together In) Electric Dreams, and Human; all of which were extremely popular and can be heard on retro radio shows (in Houston, it's 106.9 FM) in frequent rotation. Whenever I hear "I was working as a waitress in a cocktail barů", any conversation I have is shot until the song is over (it's that catchy).
The band has changed labels, done work in commercials, and frequently seem to be involved in soundtracks more than anything else these days but in their last concert tour in 2003, they wisely recorded their home town segment for release on this DVD. Their back up band members were David Beevers, Neil Sutton, Nic Burke, and Errol Rollins but the draw was, of course, Philip, Susan, and Joanne as they're the voices of the songs fans all know and care for (and the gals were still looking attractive, albeit in a MILF sort of way).
Rather than just provide a concert though, the band opted to add in some great extra material that I'll discuss later on in the interview, primarily a lengthy interview and some behind the scenes work. I'd have appreciated a compilation of their music videos even more but you can find that on another release these days. The track list was as follows:
The concert was largely successful since the group sounded much like they do in the records, albeit with all the usual concert noise, and for the reminiscence factor added in but they've influenced so many bands over the years and even twenty years later, the songs work for me (both lyrically and the themes addressed). It wasn't the best concert I've reviewed on DVD (that honor goes to either Tori Amos or Kylie Minogue) but I was entertained and getting to see the band discuss their history was cool too. I'm going to rate this one as Recommended for the overall quality but fans will want to get it and those casually interested might want to rent it first.
Picture: The Human League: Live At The Dome was presented in 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color. It looked good, if not great, and some measure of care was taken to preserve the visual aspects of the show but due to the lighting of a live concert and other such concerns, there was some grain at times and other minor visual flaws. I didn't see any compression artifacts or severe video noise though so those of you who have watched a concert or two on DVD will have a general idea of what to expect of this one (high end concert on DVD presentation).
Sound: The audio offered up two choices for sound a generic 2.0 stereo track or the much fuller and solid 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track. Both were in English but only the surround track properly took advantage of the possibilities; offering up some superior separation between the channels and a better dynamic range. Unlike concerts recorded in 2.0 and then "remastered", this one was originally recorded in the superior format and sounds it. The group could be heard very nicely and even with all the background concert noise, came off as pretty close to the original material off the records.
Extras: The best extra for me was the nearly hour long interview with Philip Oakey, Susan Anne Sulley and Joanne Catherall. They discussed their history with the band and some of the changes that took place (as well as the reasoning behind them; like the former band mates going off to form Heaven 17). Hearing it from them instead of a dry, easily altered written interview, was cool and worth checking out for fans. There was also a Behind the Scenes look at the band's tour, starting off in August of 2003 in the USA where they proved very popular, and ending up in Chile (lasting over 19 minutes). Watching it will give you some appreciation for how much nicer the main concert was recorded. The other extras were a short set of photos and an equally short biography of the band.
Final Thoughts: The Human League: Live At The Dome will appeal to fans of the band more than anyone else but it had a fair amount of solid material on it, from the 88 minute concert, to the 55 minute interview, and the 19 minute BTS feature. The quality of the DVD was high in both the visual elements and audio experience so if you're a fan of the band that has clung on after all these years from the heights of popularity in the 1980's, check it out as there was a lot to like and the concert was enjoyable.