Sounds Series 2024: The Human League, Go West, Nik Kershaw, Mockers, Choirboys – Feb. 29, 2024

The Sounds Series kicked off their star-studded retro tour of Aotearoa in Auckland, playing to a capacity crowd at the North Shore’s Eventfinda Stadium. The festival vibes were taken inside for a line up playing well into the night.

Auckland traffic made it impossible for me to get there for the (extremely early) 5.30pm start. Lots of the predominantly middle-aged crowd must have bunked off work (or Mockersretired?) because the venue was buzzing when I arrived shortly before The Mockers finished their set with Forever Tuesday Morning. I’d already missed the other “local” NZ/Aussie components of the night – Rikki Morris and The Choirboys – but was told by other attendees that they went down well. 6 performances made for a packed programme, but a long night – six hours for the stoic staying  from start to finish.

The audience was almost exclusively 40+ and most wouldn’t see the other side of 50 (or even 60) again. This was definitely a night for lovers of 80s music – a trip down memory lane which delivered loads of singalong hits, including several songs you knew but had forgotten you’d forgotten. Some attendees had dressed for the event and were in high spirits – possibly from drinking since doors opened at 5. There were some fluoro tributes to the 80s on show, plus a lot of sequins – leftovers from Swiftie trips across the ditch last week, maybe?

Nik Kershaw

Nik Kershaw took to the stage just after 8pm and with a 4 piece backing band (on a time-share with the next act, Go West) launched into Wide Boy, including an impressive guitar solo. His admirable axe skills on a rather lovely green guitar were on show throughout his set – maybe that’s what he’s been honing since becoming a pensioner? Guitar and vocals throughout his tight 45 minutes were impeccable, accompanied by self-deprecating British humour: “Who wants to hear a number 26 hit from 1984?”.

His voice didn’t falter as he ran through other hits, including The Riddle (still not solved, after all these years), Dancing Girls and Don Quixote. A grey crop replaced the famous big hair of the 80s but (like Philip Oakey later in the night) the loss of hair didn’t correspond with any loss of vocal ability. Wearing a casual T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, Kershaw looked like a cool Dad popping out on a Sunday morning for a cheeky Eggs Benny, stopping en-route to brunch to run through the highlights of his back catalogue alongside some old mates.

Getting everyone on their feet and clapping along, he included a cover of Only You – a song which he didn’t write but likes and “has been playing at festivals for the past few years”. The distinctive synth backing was true to the original and the crowd obediently sang along, as instructed. Kershaw included a rendition of The One and Only, a song he wrote for Chesney Hawkes and a huge hit around the world – except, as he dryly noted, in New Zealand. However, there were clearly sufficient Brits in the packed crowd who knew it well and could sing along.

Wouldn’t It Be Good was a standout, with its refrain of “I don’t wanna be here no more”. The audience joined in, but it was clear they didn’t want to be anywhere else except Wairau Park on this Thursday night.

Go West

Go WestIt all started to Go South with Go West. The original duo were again backed by the 4 piece band but lost the momentum built up by Nik Kershaw and there was distinctly less energy as they went through a lacklustre back catalogue with a couple of covers thrown into the mix, including Motown classic Tracks Of My Tears. Vocalist Peter Cox was keen to highlight successes of their career, introducing Faithful as their “second US top 10 hit”. The Westies saved their big hits for the latter part of the set, with Call Me (from 1985 – the days before texting, even) and We Close Our Eyes, finishing with the upbeat ditty they wrote for Pretty Woman, King of Wishful Thinking. That, at least, was pretty impressive – the audience sang the choruses en masse, without vocal input from the stage. Guitarist and co-vocalist Richard Drummie busied himself taking a picture of the audience “to send to my Mum”.

Human League

The movie references continued with Phil Oakey of The Human League striding onto Human Leaguestage after an extended instrumental introduction, looking like Morpheus from the Matrix, in a full length black coat and with his famous asymmetrical haircut replaced by a shaven head. He launched into Mirror Man, flanked by glamorous fellow vocalists Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall. The energy in the room immediately lifted, despite the set starting at 10.30 – a time when most weekday concerts in Auckland would be over or at least wrapping up.

The Human League’s singers were accompanied by two keyboards and a drummer on a raised platform and their drive was far more synth heavy and stylised. Oakey – who’s always been recognised as a fashion innovator – had several outfit changes, from close fitting tops to tailored flared suits and a wonderfully 80s referenced jacket with sharp pronounced shoulders. It appropriately reminded me of David Byrne, along with the rapid-fire Talking Heads-esque verses of Tell Me When, counterposed by its melodic and catchy chorus.

For a man of 68, Oakey looks and sounds fantastic. His voice has lost none of its power, as demonstrated in Love Action and Don’t You Want Me (no question mark, although grammar is important to the League, as demonstrated in the bracketed (Keep Feeling) Fascination). Their back catalogue is really catchy and ear-wormingly memorable. Their upbeat songs were balanced with slower, more contemplative numbers – One Man In My Heart (sung beautifully by Susan) and Human, which was incongruously and inexplicably accompanied by mesmerising images of distinctly non-human jellyfish on the large screen. A poignant moment came with The Lebanon, with lyrics and images referencing 80s warfare reminding us that one conflict is quickly followed by another and that the title could easily be replaced by the names of current war zones.

Human League


The band somewhat predictably finished the set with Don’t You Want Me, after which lots of people left – no doubt eager to get out of the parking lot and off home. They didn’t want to stay for a cracking encore, with The Human League’s first single Being Boiled followed up with an anthemic rendition of Together In Electric Dreams. Although Oakey is quoted as saying I never liked that song. I thought it was just an old-fashioned synth record, sub-romantic and a bit sentimental, but my words were good.”, he put his heart and soul into a joyous rendition which was a real highlight of the night.

There was a lot of old-fashioned synth on show at Auckland Sounds, but that’s what the punters wanted. It may have finished too late for the attendees to use their Gold Cards getting home, but no matter – we’d been transported back in time for a night of singing, dancing and happy memories, courtesy of some great performances. Hopefully the audiences in Wellington and Christchurch for the remaining shows of the Sounds Series enjoy the line up as much as we did.

Carin Newbould

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Jeong:

Human League:

Go West:

Nik Kershaw:

The Mockers:

Rikki Morris:

The Choirboys:

The Sounds Series Continues in Wellington & Christchurch. Click here for tickets.

Set Lists

Nik Kershaw

Wide Boy

Dancing Girls

The Riddle

Only You (cover)

Don Quixote

Wouldn’t It Be Good

The One and Only

I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Go West

Don’t Look Down

Black & Gold (cover)

Tears Too Late


Let Love Come

Tracks Of My Tears (cover)


Call Me

We Close Our Eyes

King of Wishful Thinking

The Human League

Mirror Man

Caught By The Wheel

Get Around Town

New Life


The Lebanon

One Night In My Heart


Love Action

(Keep Feelin’) Fascination

Tell Me When

Don’t You Want Me Baby

**First Single

Together in Electric Dreams