Soft Cell headline Heritage Live concert at Audley End


Fans of 80s electronica were treated to a triple bill of top 80 acts as Heaven 17, OMD and Soft Cell all took the stage at Audley End House and Gardens, as part of the Heritage Live concert series, on Friday 11th August .

OMD.  Photo: Gerred Gilronan
OMD. Photo: Gerred Gilronan

The show’s opening, Heaven 17, featuring founding members Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware (Ware was also an original member of The Human League), managed to create a party atmosphere from the get-go, with vocalist Gregory having an excellent voice , expertly assisted by keyboard player Ware, who also contributed vocals.

Before the third number, Play to winGlenn remembered that he was on Top of the Popscommenting that some of the DJs who used to introduce them to the program should now no longer be allowed to.

While most of the audience – including me – was probably waiting to hear TemptationHeaven 17’s most famous hit, there were quite a few really good songs to enjoy before that moment came, like Geisha Boys and Temple Girlsa solid cover of David Bowie’s Let’s dance (which was dedicated to the late singer) and Let me gowhich Glenn stated was his favorite Heaven 17 song.

Heaven 17's Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory.  Photo: Gerred Gilronan
Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory. Photo: Gerred Gilronan

Typically saving the best for last, the band performed the excellent extended Brothers in Rhythm remix of Temptation from 1992 which, as far as I could tell, had the majority of the audience singing along passionately.

Then it was OMD’s turn to get the audience on their feet. The hard-working quartet – Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Stuart Kershaw – always deliver an energetic show and tonight was no exception.

After their third song, the euphoric History of Modern Times (Part 1)singer McCluskey said that it “always amazes me to see 10,000 people at an English Heritage concert jumping up and down over a song that’s basically about the end of the world.”

Paul Humphreys sang skillfully (Forever) Live and die And Souvenirand further dancing and jumping then ensured the band classics like Joan of Arc (maid from New Orleans), So in love And locomotion.

“Here’s a new one… from 1991,” Andy said, introducing the beautiful one Pandora’s box. They also played a stormy rendition of Sailing the seven seasanother classic from that same year and my absolute favorite OMD song.

Andy McCluskey from OMD.  Photo: Gerred Gilronan
Andy McCluskey from OMD. Photo: Gerred Gilronan

Like Heaven 17, the last song on the set was perhaps their most famous – Enola dude. This synthpop staple has gained new topical relevance thanks to the recent release of the Oppenheimer movie.

Soft Cell made their name in the early 1980s, around the same time as OMD, and are undoubtedly best known for their 1981 hit, Tarnished love – indeed, many people would have a hard time naming any of their other hits.

It was therefore great to hear some truly satisfying tunes from the long-standing duo, which consists of vocalist Marc Almond and keyboardist David Ball (the pair were expertly backed up tonight by other musicians and four backing singers).

Almond, a charismatic frontman, got the crowd going right away and it was some of the newer songs that stood out early on – especially Evaporate, Happy happy happy And Purple zonethe stunning 2022 duet with the Pet Shop Boys.

I was hoping that Neil Tennant would have been brought out as a surprise guest, but unfortunately we had to make do with a recording of his voice.

Dirty movies was a fun song, with images of what Soho used to be like on the giant screen, and Nostalgia machine – another new song – was an absolute hit.

When Tarnished love finally came, it got the kind of ecstatic response you’d expect, and it was followed by a cover of The Supremes’ Where has our love gone and then the nostalgic Say hello, goodbye.

Mark Almond.  Photo: Gerred Gilronan
Mark Almond. Photo: Gerred Gilronan
Mark Almond.  Photo: Gerred Gilronan
Mark Almond. Photo: Gerred Gilronan

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect from Soft Cell prior to the show as I only had a limited knowledge of their back catalogue, but I was quite impressed.

They seem to be one of those acts that just gets better with age, with many of their new songs absolutely surpassing the old ones – with the exception of Tarnished love, Naturally.

Audley End house and gardens.  Photo: Adrian Peel
Audley End house and gardens. Photo: Adrian Peel

[Read more: Andy Burrows of Razorlight: ‘Bands are complicated beasts’]

Razorlight will headline Audley End tomorrow (Sunday 13th August). For more information about Heritage Live, visit

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