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The JD Set at Dingwalls – The Human League Reinterpreted

Published 10 May 2010

Last Wednesday (5th May) saw the JD set come to Dingwalls in Camden, for a celebration of the Human League’s seminal album, Dare. The bands assembled to pay their dues to the album and provide a reinterpretation included The Pippettes, Infadels, Shy Child, Shortwave Set and Kids on Bridges.

The performances ranged from the great (Shortwave Set, Infadels) to the average (Pippettes) and each band’s set saw some covers and collaborations of songs from Dare.

Unfortunately over the course of a three-hour show, half that time was dedicated to sound checks between bands. Each band only played 25 minute sets with long waits in between, which meant there wasn’t enough time for the crowd to get properly engaged, and any momentum or atmosphere that started to pick up got lost between sets.

Giving each band a set also meant that the album wasn’t really performed properly. While the temptation of having five great bands collaborate together on a performance of a decade defining album is certainly great, it would make more sense to play the album in it’s entirety in one go, having performers drop in and out for each song. Dividing up the sets made it feel like more of a showcase for each band, plus a few Human League songs thrown in, rather than a genuine showcase of the record.

Kids on Bridges did their best to get the atmosphere going and people moving but suffered from a fairly unresponsive and thin crowd.  Betraying the most obvious debt to the Human League, their mix or garage, pop and electro was impressive and they played with great energy but somehow didn’t manage to quite get the audience into the rhythm.

The Shortwave Set was my personal favorite of the night.  Somehow finding the sweet spot between the Jesus and Mary Chain and Belle & Sebastian, the three piece played a brief set of reverb laden, melancholic pop before being joined by the Pippettes for a brilliant cover of “Love Action”.

Shy Child suffered a similar problem to Kids on Bridges. Despite having a punk/electro style that clearly has roots and beginnings from the Human League, the crowd seemed slightly nonplussed despite the band’s unrelenting, whirlwind performance.

The Pippettes, now reduced to a duo, never raised their performance above average and their material of vaguely cheeky girl-group pop just didn’t do it for me.  For an ostensible girl group they are pretty average singers and songwriters, and don’t have much in the way of hooks or harmonies.  They basically have two back-up quality singers where they need one stronger lead singer.

Headliners Infadels were the band that most convincingly got people moving, and they wasted little time doing it.  Musically they are stuck somewhere between Pendulum and Hot Chip (in a good way) and have a brilliantly energetic live show.  They played a mix of old and new tracks before finishing the night with some help from members of every band with a celebratory cover of the Human League’s “Together in Electric Dreams”.

The night saw generally great performances that suffered from poor planning and an overly exclusive attendance policy that left the venue half full, and therefore slightly lacking in atmosphere. It would also have been nice to have seen the Dare album performed a bit more faithfully in one longer set, rather than shared between 5 short ones.  That said, the collaborations and covers were uniformly great and were a good mix of faithful and more ambitious re-workings, it’s just a shame they came in such short bursts.

Still, The JD Set Tour goes on, with upcoming performances in Manchester on the 27th May and in Glasgow on the 17th June. Mike Joyce, Tim Burgess from The Charlatans, and John Cooper Clarke will pay homage to Manchester legends the Buzzcocks on the 27th. Up in Scotland in June, Madonna’s greatest hits are featured in a collaboration from Malcolm  Middleton, Silver Columns, cocknbullkid, and Casiokids. Fans can win tickets for the JD Sets in Manchester and Glasgow by visiting thejdset.co.uk, sponsored by Jack Daniels.

Know when to unplug. Please drink Jack Daniel’s responsibly.

Article written by Aneil Fatania.