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Johnny Foreigner – The Borderline, London 31/03/04

02 April 2014, 15:30 | Written by The Line of Best Fit

When Alexei Burrow sings “This one goes out to some kids in Snobs, still fighting the floor when the battle is lost,” on “Le Sigh”, a cheer rises from the mob of people struggling for space and stability on the Borderline floor. The lyric is a nod to the legendary Birmingham nightclub that carried the alternative, indie binge spirit of the city for more than four decades (and will continue to do so soon in a new home), and clearly chimes with the fans that have followed Johnny Foreigner from their Birmingham roots. What Johnny Foreigner offer in their live show tonight, is that spirit, trebled, turned up, doused in petrol and set alight.

They’re ferocious. Between the nostalgia-tinged mosh pit and musician-packed stage, it’s impressive nobody was seriously injured in the frenzy. Song after song kicked and kicked. From tracks off new album You Can Do Better “Le Sigh”, “Shipping” and “Wifi Beach” to older songs “With Who, Who and What I’ve Got” and “Henning’s Favourite”, JoFo blast out a perfect blend of intensity and control. It’s frantic and incendiary, but not chaotic.

It’s loud, but not so loud that all the licks and riffs of guitar, keytar and synth are lost. The idiosyncrasies that make Johnny Foreigner who they are shine too. Alexei’s slur is matched perfectly by Kelly Southern’s powerfully tempered vocals and there is no compromise on passion. Both scream lyrics somewhere round about their mics, yet it sounds excellent, as if their savage commitment to the music has been through a studio mixing desk.

But it’s not all crash, bang wallop. Before berating the NME for its three-star review of You Can Do Better (the reviewer complains that the band play too fast), Alexei proudly proclaims they’re “too fast for the NME” before a beautiful rendition of the slow bubbling “Riff Glitchard”. After all, it’s the delicate and exacting nature of JoFo’s brute force that make this band so exciting on record and terrifyingly enjoyable on stage.

They may play with the punchy spirit of grimy, student indie clubs, but make no mistake, there’s a beauty and maturity in their music, their lyrics and their style, that make Johnny Foreigner one of the most exciting bands about.

Review by Hugh Morris

Photo by Steve Gerrard

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