Human League at Rewind Scotland 2017

Rewind Scotland, Scone Palace, 22-23 July 2017

It’s Saturday afternoon. A man in a neon T-shirt is offering me and my pal a water pouch full of rum, while Mark King slaps at his bass in the background. I get a strange feeling of déjà vu, and then re-read last year’s review. Nice to see some things never change.

Alas, some things at Rewind 2017 have changed, and not for the better. Our party were unimpressed at queuing for an hour and a half to get in on Day One, with stewards only offering wristbands to the line after mutinies began. We had to hear The Undertones sans Feargal Sharkey belt out Teenage Kicks from a distance, arriving just in time for a passable set from The Real Thing.

Grumbles aside, Saturday was musically better by a country mile, despite the torrential rain. Trevor Horn made a welcome return to an appreciative crowd, bringing with him an impressive back catalogue of Buggles songs and 80s classics. Oh, and he casually dropped in Lol Creme as his guitarist – who gleefully launched into a rousing rendition of Rubber Bullets – and brought out Jim Kerr to belt out Waterfront. Superb. Level 42 kept the good vibes going with a killer set; Mike Lindup seemingly hasn’t aged at all, and Mark King’s spangly LED bass skills are unsurpassed.

In our group’s opinion, there were a few more low points than 2016. T’Pau’s Carol Decker, for instance, was pitchy and lacklustre. A (possibly drunk) Tom Robinson’s anecdote-to-song ratio was poor – although the Eddy Grant story was entertaining – and he even stopped Glad To Be Gay to berate the audience for not singing along. Soul II Soul’s set was alright, but Jazzie B announcing that he was happy to be in Glasgow somewhat turned the Sunday crowd towards the bar. And, despite being a huge fan, I thought Jason Donovan’s vocals were wobbly. “No wonder Kylie ditched him,” my companion messaged, halfway through a more acceptable rendition of Too Many Broken Hearts. For some unfathomable reason, the organisers also decided to swap out Shit Local DJs as compere in favour of Clive Jackson from Doctor and the Medics, who seemed to forget that microphones amplify you already. (I’ll give him back points for a speech on NHS staff, mind.)

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Back to the highlights, and I found, like last year, the smaller acts punched above their weight. Musical Youth’s mix of reggae covers and the grimly inevitable Pass The Dutchie got the crowd going, as did a cheery Chesney Hawkes, who seemed genuinely bowled over that his fans knew every word to The One And Only. If you read 2016’s review, you’ll know why I was most excited to see Go West on the bill again, firstly because Peter Cox’s voice still sounds phenomenal, but mainly because he carried on the tradition of covering Sex On Fire, and this year added Black And Gold to the repertoire. (You can see him live in Glasgow next year, go book!) Martyn Ware’s British Electric Foundation were back with a bang, featuring the usual star-studded lineup alongside Glenn Gregory. Claudia Brucken’s cool interpretation of The Model and Glen Matlock’s rocking ruination of Happy were worth the ticket price alone, though it was a shame Peter ‘we don’t talk about New Order’ Hook suffered technical hitches during Love Will Tear Us Apart. (This year’s medley tribute? Freedom ’90 for George Michael. There was something in my eye, even if Glenn fluffed the lyrics.) Speaking of misty-eyed, the lovely Kim Wilde caused a few wistful sighs and faraway looks from the menfolk, though her set started with a few more obscure hits than I would’ve liked.

The headliners didn’t disappoint this time round. The Human League’s Phil Oakey owned the stage, dressed in a silver sci-fi dress like he was channelling Gary Oldman circa Fifth Element, and getting through a staggering number of costume changes along with Jo and Susan. Being Boiled as an encore was greeted by wild enthusiasm – you haven’t lived until a forty-something man dressed like Bez is leaping around behind you, yelling about sericulture. Billy Ocean, closing the festival on Sunday, brought a formidable back catalogue – and surprisingly young fanbase, if the teenage girls with tour shirts were anything to go by. His warmth and jovial smile kept the crowd going, even during the slowies like Suddenly. (I wish I had as much energy as him at 67. SIXTY-SEVEN.)

Overall, Rewind impressed again, but if you’re booking for 2018, some advice: beware of strangers bringing drinks, and make sure your acts know where Perth is…