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Belfast Feile crowd parties like it's the 1980s again with Marc Almond and Human League

Human League, Marc Almond, Falls Park

By Andrew Johnston

The opening weekend of this year's beleaguered Feile an Phobail ended on a high last night, with no hint of the woes that have beset the festival in recent weeks.

The protests over Frankie Boyle's controversial upcoming appearance were put to one side for the evening, as a packed crowd celebrated the 1980s with two of the decade's most classic acts.

Droves of nostalgic fans welcomed co-headliners the Human League and Marc Almond to the Feile's big top in Falls Park.

Former Soft Cell frontman Almond was up first, delivering a slick set of anthemic tunes. If his iconic covers of the Gene Pitney staple Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart and Jacques Brel's Jacky proved unsurprising highlights, they were matched by original gems like Demon Lover and Meet Me in My Dreams.

Almond was in superb voice and wasn't afraid to wave his arms and vamp it up. Having a Belfast-born guitarist in his band won him extra points, too.

Tainted Love came and went like the overrated keyboard riff-and-chorus it is, leaving Soft Cell's Say Hello, Wave Goodbye to close proceedings in epic fashion.

Next up, synth-pop legends the Human League made their return to Belfast after four years.

The group's previous gig, at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, was marred by an ailing Phil Oakey's weak voice, but the frontman brought his A-game to west Belfast last night.

Opening numbers Mirror Man and Heart like a Wheel were infectious slices of prime pop, and as midnight approached, there was no let-up in the party atmosphere as Oakey and Co belted out hit after hit.

Four stars

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