80s icons take to the stage at Audley End House, Essex
Written by Stewart Hedges
After leaving Bedfordshire at 4.45pm and battling the rush hour traffic we still managed to arrive at Audley End House, near Saffron Walden, in very good time. Thanks to its beautiful Essex countryside location, there are plenty of rural back roads in.
The event was well marshalled, and only a short walk from the car park to the gates, and despite forecasts of showers for the event earlier in the week, it was a fantastic summer’s evening.
The venue is perfect as set on a hill, with the stage at the bottom, there is not a bad view to be had, and whether you stand at the front row of the stage or at the back of the hill the sound is just as good.
At exactly 6pm Belinda Carlisle took to the stage and god she looks good for 60! Her voice is still great and she belted out hit after hit with 10 songs starting with ‘Live Your Life be Free’, and ending with ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’. There was also a Go Go’s cover from her original band half way through.
After the performance there was a short break enabling those who hadn’t brought picnics to get refreshments from the numerous choice of food outlets, from pie and mash, hog roasts, fish & chips, and crepes. There was one of every type of food you could possibly want and no big queues. Reading some of the forums beforehand there was a ban from bringing your own alcohol this year, but there were various bars available, again with organised queuing and the stage was visible from all. With the price of £6 a can of lager, this seemed to lead to sensible drinking and a very friendly atmosphere so probably a good decision was made.
Next it was ABC and again to be fair Martin Fry has also aged well. Another whose voice is just as good live, he played a 14 set list, starting with ‘When Smokey Sings’ and ending with ‘The Look of Love’. There were many tracks from The Lexion of Love albums, with the backing of violinists, which again was well received by the crowd.
Finally and what I personally had been waiting for as one of my favourite bands, it was time for The Human League. I have seen them at many similar concerts and they never fail to deliver, Phil Oakey is a tremendous front man with a haunting presence and his voice is amazing. He was backed by the two ladies Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall, who he plucked from the Crazy Daisy Nightclub in Sheffield when they were 17, they still sound and deliver 39 years later. What I liked about Human League is they always play their hits, 14 in total plus a cover from the Yellow Magic Orchestra. They had the crowd with them the whole time.
I made a schoolboy error as when they started playing ‘Don’t You Want Me’, I thought I would make my way to the back of the arena for a quick getaway avoiding any traffic. This seemed the right move especially when they thanked the crowd and said goodnight. However after a standing ovation from the baying crowd they came out for an encore of ‘Being Boiled’ and ‘Together in Electric Dreams’, by which I was driving through Saffron Walden on my way home.
All in all, a fantastic night at a well-organized, beautiful venue nestled in the Essex countryside. I’m looking forward to next year already!
The concert at Audley End House is organised by Heritage Live Concerts. Find out more about their upcoming summer events at www.heritagelive.net