Supporting 80's legends the Human League in their home town may be unnerving for some. Not, it seems, for Manchester-based three piece Performance who gave us a set of pure 80's based synth and drum machine pop. Joe Stretch (internationally published author and lead singer) channeled Bowie, Numan and of course Phil Oakey from his floppy fringe to his black trench coat. Joe Cross presided over a complicated set up of laptop, synth and drum machine and Laura Marsden gave us guitar, keyboard, drums and the vocal strength and clarity of Carol Decker.

It seems that the path to glory has been less than straightforward. They have been told to change their name (repeatedly), had to put up with each other and what we might tactfully refer to as a turbulent time with the label. 'Red Brick Heart' is their second album. A quick tour of the band's MySpace page throws up a quote from the new album’s producer, Cliff Jones -"I’ve honestly never met a more sombre bunch of people in my life. It’s unclear to me why they make pop music." That pretty much sums them up.

The backdrop of a projector showing flickering art school style images, the moody looking singer avoiding eye contact, mostly keeping his movements to a minimum and occasionally exploding into brief jerky dance moves is all very evocative of early Joy Division or Human League gigs. Supporting the later, undoubted electropop legends feels a perfect fit. Photographer for this piece, Mel Preston summed it up as Performance are the before and the Human League are the after. But don't think for a moment that Performance are merely a derivative, cheap rip off of the original. Whilst their influences are clear to see they have that vital individualism. The best thing I think you can ever say about a support band is that they got a positive reaction from the crowd and Performance did. I even saw people starting to dance and the applause was genuine rather than the usual "Yeah, thanks for showing up and now bugger off so we can get to the main event" you would normally expect to hear.

During the main event Oakey even thanked Performance and praised their set, proof indeed not only that Performance are great, but also that the Human League are a very generous band. I plan to locate and listen to their studio albums now, to see if that vitality and movement that can be so persuasive in person and then lacking on CD is present. I fully expect it will be.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken for Pennyblackmusic by Mel Preston.













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