SODDEN clothes and soaked shoes damply cling on a British Summer’s night, one storey down, in an intimate venue below Pizza East. Business suits and party frocks, dripping umbrellas, high heels kicked off. From where I stand I can count on one hand those in jeans and t-shirt or some other popular variation, although this could be down to the fact that tonight is a seemingly exclusive soirée, the first of a series of performances held to celebrate Q Magazine’s twenty-five year anniversary in association with Blackberry; cue the obligatory calls from the crowd for a free phone. Anticipation mounts in the dimly lit room, drinks sunk as the final technical touches are applied to tonight’s stage and equipment. The deep breath before the plunge, a new look Razorlight give the stage its purpose, to delight and applause.
Perhaps made giddy by changes in flux, they’re dressed quite frankly comically, resembling teenagers who have raided their mother’s wardrobe upon discovering punk after their first trip to Camden
Tonight, ‘new look’ is the choice phrase, with three new additions made to the band, replacements or missing pieces joining Johnny Borrell, original and founding member, the infamously bold, brash and outspoken front man. All parties seemingly unfazed by whatever pundits have to be hypothesized about such a move, as they pick up their instruments, only too happy to prove them all wrong. Perhaps made giddy by changes in flux, they’re dressed quite frankly comically, resembling teenagers who have raided their mother’s wardrobe upon discovering punk after their first trip to Camden – Borrell of course in trademark deepest V t-shirt, I wonder if he brought back such rare styling concepts whilst he was searching for ‘the new sound’. Yet looks proved deceiving, after some initial technical difficulties out of their control this new aggregate kicked into action so loud and tightly I could barely catch my breath or type my opinions onto my breaking down Blackberry phone (wink wink).
Ploughing through the set, they showed no sign of apprehension or slowing down. Surprised by the amount of songs I recognised, I’m not embarrassed to say I caught myself tapping my wet feet on more than a few occasions. The older songs sounding just as pertinent as the new, the newer sounding bigger, heavier and richer for the change. An interesting dynamic, a gifted set of musicians, the bass player fresh from his tenure at the Grand Ole Opry, the drummer quite literally manhandling the set and the guitarist, a pirate. At times, Borrell could be seen to reign the other members back in, applying his will and guiding hand, yet I suppose they’re sharing in his vision, this being said and to hark back, despite whatever misgivings a doubting mind may have about a completely new band, one hardly notices the difference at all. There are still the moments of sounding like a Patti Smith or Television covers act, trampling too obviously on the flower bed toes of their inspiration, failing to clear the hurdles they put before themselves, never truly superseding Verlaine’s subtle guitar play virtuosity or Smith’s tight rope act word explorations. Comparisons aside, they truly keep the audience on the edge of their figurative seats, working for their money delivering blow after blow and breaking no sweat. Breakdowns, slowdowns, shared microphone moments, hand claps, fist pumps and sing alongs, prodigal sons reaffirming their vacant position. As a side, I must confess I was a little confounded by some crowd interaction and behavior, the amount of mobile phone photos being snapped, poorly lit and composed unrecognizable shapes left somewhat of an unsavory taste in my mouth, each to their own though, a broken fourth wall and all that, I suppose, it remains a very new world indeed.
With a few missteps taken although largely on the right path, An initially tepid cover of Edwyn Collins’ mystical ‘A Girl Like You’ was devoid of the menace and murder magic which makes it so haunting, yet did grow in confidence and maturity, transforming into some whole, new beast just past the half-way mark, and a questionable cover of The Cramps’ ‘Garbageman’ left more of a stink than a funk, unsexy and safe leading me to conclude the band should stick to their day jobs. Closing with arguably their biggest hit, ‘America’, a happy and well-fed crowd swayed winding down echoing the lyrics about the room and back to their maker, to which he makes no secret of hiding his delight. Upon witnessing this it well and truly seemed Razorlight are back or just beginning again. Leaving, I’m genuinely intrigued to hear and see what they have to offer next, if not for more crowd-pleasing songs, then what outfit they may choose to wear.
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