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Live Review: Let’s Rock the North East Festival 21/8/21

Let’s Rock the North East Festival – Human League, OMD, ABC, Howard Jones. Sister Sledge, Midge Ure’s Electronica, Heaven 17, Pete Wylie, Toyah, Go West and more……..

Herrington Park, Sunderland, UK - 21st August 2021

I grew up in the era of fading punk, emerging New Romantic and the underground Goth scene was bubbling away. It was possibly the golden era for ‘freaks’ - those that didn’t fit into society with so many alternative music and fashion scenes. New Wave came in various guises and synth-pop was king. Gender bending, as the press called it, had another resurgence after the glam-rock years of the 1970’s. Men and women were experimenting, people pushed the boundaries – it was a very exciting period to be growing up. Commercially synth-pop will perhaps always be associated with the early 1980’s – and this festival caters for this end of the market. A large group of chart toppers from this period of time, predominantly of the synth and electronic genre.

It was raining as I arrived at the festival, and the weather forecast wasn’t good. I had my press pass, and my car was parked next to the rear of the stage – alongside artist hospitality. I had access to VIP, hospitality and was even fed by the organisers. Good stuff, we have a job to do, but it’s appreciated when we are appreciated! I quickly met several of the bands, took photos and established recognition – this always help when in the photography pit to get good images. Good stuff.


Go West arrived on stage first, not my cup of tea, and but they deserved to be higher on the bill. I spoke to their manager earlier, they had another gig to travel to, so were unusually the opener. Now

I’m no fan, but when the likes of Black Lace (of the truly appalling ‘Agado’ and ‘Do the Conga’ chart hits) and tribute bands were before them, I must admit I felt it would have been better to stay at home. The crowd liked them, they were a good opener. Another artist lower on the bill worth mentioning was Jaki Graham. The polar opposite to my own taste, and I would imagine to Elektro Vox readers too – but she managed an impressive set. I’ll also give Sister Sledge a mention too, further up the bill. Again not of interest to us electronic beat lovers, they gave a fantastic


Toyah shared the same band that had been used by Black Lace and the tribute bands. Not a good start. However, quickly I realised they were actually a good band. It all worked well on this short set

of Toyah’s most famous songs such as ‘I want to be Free’, ‘It’s a Mystery’, ‘Thunder in the Mountains’, ‘Echo Beach’ and ‘Good Morning Universe’. She is a little bundle of energy, and just as exciting to watch as her younger years. Good stuff.


Heaven 17 arrived and by now the crowd was very large, several thousand people, and it was clear they were happy to see this band. Glenn and Martyn shared the same two backing singers of Toyah

and several other bands. But as they had proved with Toyah they are very good indeed. I’m a big fan of every band Martyn Ware has been involved with, and he can be regarded as one of the great-

grand daddies of electronic music in the UK. As most readers will know, Heaven 17 was born after half of The Human League split away. Today they are as relevant as they ever were, the festival