The Human League/Tom Bailey/Altered Images

OVO Hydro 


It was the day that people in Scotland were urged to cancel Christmas parties due to the rising number of cases of the Omicron Covid variant.

As some people were preparing for a Christmas nostalgia-fest at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow, Public Health Scotland were talking about the number of outbreaks caused by Omicron being linked to Christmas parties.

Two hours after Scotland was being told to "defer their Christmas parties to another time", Glasgow pop darlings Altered Images hit the Hydro stage in the first part of a classic pop extravaganza also featuring Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins and starring 80s synth behemoths The Human League.

The thousands that packed into the 14,300-capacity indoor venue clearly had not heard the news, or if they did, did not think it applied and it was clear it was not going to ruin the occasion.

The apparent irony of it all was not lost on some here.


One excited glitter festooned reveller remarked as other friends nodded: "Aye I heard that on the radio coming through, but, take a look, is there anyone givin' a t**s.

"I mean it is laughable that I am stood here in a big queue, with all these people and the so-called science says that parties are off. What is this if it is not one of the biggest bloody parties there will be in Glasgow this Xmas."

It is easy to understand the confusion when much was made of a Steps gig at this very venue on November 22, that was said to have spawned a number of Omicron Covid cases.

And a few days ago two Stereophonics shows set to take place at the outdoor Principality Stadium in Cardiff next week were pushed back to 2022 due to fears over new Covid-19 variants.

"People I think have just got fed up to the back teeth with it all," insisted the determined reveller as others nodded. "I mean, Boris was saying the other day that we don't want to cancel Xmas parties. What are we meant to think of all that."

With Covid vaccine certification checks being carried out, the queues could be seen on all sides of the Hydro half an hour before Claire Grogan skipped her way onto stage with Altered Images.  

According to Hydro rules, face coverings are mandatory at all times during the event, unless exempt or eating, drinking or dancing but even outside of that there appeared to be an element of confusion over mask-wearing.

"Glasgow, the swearing capital of the world. In fact it's f***ing brilliant," giggles Grogan after a chirpy I Could Be Happy, accompanied by a fond 'still in a nappy' by one or two in the audience at convenient points.

Covid? Omicron? That was left way behind as Grogan, bedecked in a cranberry-coloured spangly number, acts, talks and sings throughout as if she is flirting with everyone.

The true national treasure, has to finish with Happy Birthday and then it is all-in-white Tom Bailey and his band who were to take take us through an exhilirating tour of Thompson Twins classics.


Now by this time the Hydro is pretty much heaving, but there is a sense of 'we are saving our energy' for the Human League amongst the thousands of mainly nostalgia-seekers.

It is a cover of the Talking Heads classic Psycho Killer that seems to wake one or two up and the Hold Me Now finale as exquisitely executed as it was, gets a weirdly forced response from the audience.

An orchestral fanfare greets the arrival of The Human League's Phil Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley and a backdrop of flights of real stairs and fake-drawn ones.

The opening synth strains of Mirror Man fire up and the Hydro wakes up like a child emerging from a disturbed dream.

They are all dressed in black, and Phil Oakey, now 66, treats this show less like a gig, but as his own personal workout as he strides across the stage and up and down the stairs throughout like a man possessed.

Their voices, and particularly Oakey's deep growl have not faded with age as they take the crowd through hit after irresistible hit from Tell Me When and (Keep Feeling) Facination to Heart Like A Wheel and The Lebanon.

This is a tour to celebrate the anniversary of their exemplary breakthrough album Dare and so after the latest of a series of costume changes, they burst into The Things That Dreams Are Made Of and the hits Open Your Heart and Sound of the Crowd as if the last 40 years had not happened.

What stands Dare out though from other synthpop albums of the time, is its dark centre.

And in Glasgow, Oakey's trademark boomingly bassy vocals send a shiver dowthbeforeefe spine on the quieter contemplative Darkness  and Seconds.

Sandwiched between them was the equally murky and mesmerizingly sparse I Am The Law with its 'I know rules are a bore' refrain that will definitely have resonated.

You got the feeling that back then Depeche Mode might have been taking notes before they embarked on their emergence from clean-cut popsters to industrial-influenced synth-goth adults.

It is the Human League hits that predictably get bums off those who are on seats, and after a "I thought it might be empty" quip, Oakey and the gang burst into the worldwide anthem Don't You Want Me.

Running off, when after all the energy expelled he should be crawling off, he then returns for the single encore with a tribute to Steve Bronski, a founding member of the influential British synth-pop trio Bronski Beat who died at the age of 61.

The haunting tones of Being Boiled fill the auditorium before the only non Human League-song Electric Dreams closes this three-and-a-half hour party that just refused to let up.

There were tears from one overcome punter as she left. "It just all takes me back to my youth," she blubbed. And she was not alone.

Pandemic? What pandemic.