Human League, Josh Ritter, Heaven 17, and Cathy Davey for arts festival Big Top

Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter

Synth pop legends and heroes of 1980s electro The Human League and Heaven 17, and leading singer-songwriters Josh Ritter, Cathy Davey, and Damien Dempsey, will all play the Galway Arts Festival Big Top in July.

The arts festival takes place from July 12 to 25 and throughout those dates the Big Top in the Fisheries Field will resound to such songs as ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, ‘We Don’t Need This (Fascist Groove Thing’ ), ‘Kathleen’, ‘Sing For Your Supper’, and ‘Seize The Day’.

The Human League and Heaven 17 play the Big Top on Saturday July 24 at 7pm. It is appropriate both groups should play this double headline concert. Not only are they synth pop legends, they were once all the same group.

The Human League was formed in Sheffield in 1977 by computer operators Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh and hospital porter Philip Oakey. Inspired by German electronic music, they created two albums of avant garde synth pop - Reproduction (1979 ) and Travelogue (1980 ).

However creative tensions arose between Ware and Oakey. Ware wanted to continue with experimental music while Oakey was interested in exploring a more accessible and pop orientated sound.

The resulting clash of ideas resulted in Ware and Marsh quitting the band and forming Heaven 17. Oakey now had to come up with new members. He gathered six, the two most prominent being two girls he met at a club - Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. Together they shared vocal duties, and the new line up recorded Dare in 1981.

In both its imagery and its synth pop stylings Dare is a landmark of 1980s pop. A huge success it spawned the classic single ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ and turned the band into international stars. The band enjoyed further success in the 1980s but by the 1990s The Human League appeared to have run its course.

However the revival of interest in and the renewed influence of synth pop on indie music, as well as a rise in 1980s nostalgia, have given Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley a new lease of life and has seen them recording new material, and touring to enthusiastic crowds across the globe once more.

Not to be outdone by their former vocalist, Heaven 17 also created one of the classic albums of the 1980s in Penthouse And Pavement, which contained the hit single ‘We Don’t Need This (Fascist Groove Thing’ ) and explored such issues Thatcherism, nuclear war, religious extremism, and American political influence.

The album will be played live in its entirety by the band in concerts throughout 2010 and many fans will no doubt hope they do this in Galway. Penthouse And Pavement is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Heaven 17’s best known single is the pounding, soulful ‘Temptation’ which reached number 2 in Britain in 1983, and is distinguished by the vocal contribution of Carol Kenyon.

Friday July 23 at 7pm sees the Big Top host one of America’s finest young singer-songwriters Josh Ritter, alongside two of Ireland’s finest, Cathy Davey and Damien Dempsey.

Josh has just released his new album So Runs The World Away, Cathy has just issued her third album The Nameless, and Damien is recording his sixth album.

Both Ritter and Dempsey play folk influenced music, Ritter coming from an Americana/roots/country perspective, while Dempsey is indebted to Christy Moore and Luke Kelly. Cathy Davey brings a dance oriented, guitar driven, indie pop and rock feel to her music.

Cathy will be first on stage, followed by Damien Dempsey, with Josh Ritter and his Royal City Band topping the bill.

Tickets for both concerts go on sale from tomorrow and are available from www.galwayartsfestival.com and ticketmaster.ie The festival programme will be launched on Wednesday May 26 in Dublin and on Thursday 27 in Galway.

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