Live Review: Heaven 17 @ The Birchmere — 9/25/22

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Glenn Gregory fronts Heaven 17 at The Birchmere on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Words by Mickey McCarter)

Finally, on a full tour of the United States, Heaven 17 recently engaged a DC-area audience at The Birchmere with stories and song, providing a fascinating look at the history of the band.

The synthpop collective’s core duo of Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware have known each other since they were teens in Sheffield, England, so they arrive to the United States more than 45 years into their association full of fond tales and bright tunes.

Glen recalled, for example, how Martyn might dress in a bright green jacket, tight white pants, and platform shoes before going out for clubbing with him in the ‘70s.

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Interview: Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 (@ The Birchmere, 9/25/22)

Heaven 17 Photo 1 (credit - Chris Youd)
Heaven 17 with Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware (right) (Photo by Chris Youd)

In the early days of pop electronic music, Martyn Ware was full of big ideas in Sheffield, England. He teamed up with vocalist Phil Oakey to establish the original incarnation of The Human League. The band revamped after two studio albums, and Martyn and collaborator Ian Craig Marsh moved on to form Heaven 17 with singer Glenn Gregory.

Full of sophistication and soul, Heaven 17 (named for a fictitious band referenced in A Clockwork Orange) became UK chart fixtures from 1981-1986, releasing acclaimed albums such as debut Penthouse and Pavement, UK platinum record The Luxury Gap, and more. Their songs “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang,” “The Height of the Fighting (He-La-Hu),” “Let Me Go,” and “Temptation,” among others, remain in heavy rotation on satellite radio and the internet.

Heaven 17 never toured until 1997, and the band never mounted a full USA tour. That is about to change as Martyn and Glenn lead a Heaven 17 Tour starting tonight, Sept. 16, in New York. The tour hits the DC metro area at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, on Sunday, Sept. 25.

Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter chatted with synthesist Martyn Ware about this long-awaited US tour, his autobiography and podcast, and what’s next for Heaven 17. He was, as you would expect, warm, witty, and welcoming.

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