It’s very difficult to review anything to do with Johnny Borrell without mentioning his tight white jean wearing, Kirsten Dunst dating, chart storming past. To dub him the ‘Marmite’ of front men is almost an understatement, but I went into this gig with the hope that for once he’d let the music do the talking.
The last time I saw Johnny Borrell perform live it was on Razorlight’s arena tour on the back of their second album, so to then see him nervously shuffle on to the tiny, dingy stage in Audio a mere 3 yards away from me was a contrast to say the least.
So with a clean slate and three new members, Johnny Borrell takes to the Audio stage with his (currently un-named) new band – comprising of a long haired grungy lead guitarist, a hippy bassist and a drummer with dashing boy band good looks. With minimal banter, a visibly nervous Borrell dives straight in a short, but energetic set which includes all new songs and a slight shift in direction from his Razorlight past. The base line has more funk, the lead guitar has more bite and refreshingly Borrell looks like he’s got his hunger back. Jolting his alarmingly skinny frame around the stage to the slightly rockier new sound, he interacts with his band mates and even cracks a smile at one point.
Lyrically its a shift away from the ‘night out/morning after’ style of early Razorlight, with more of an ‘us against the world mentality’ – a real reflection of Borrell’s journey these past few months and a rousing rallying call to the battles that lie ahead.
As quickly as they arrived, Johnny and his new band mates were gone. What they left behind was a set of tight, energetic rock songs and a swarm of happy punters. While Johnny Borrell & Friends weren’t the headline act tonight, it’s in his nature to steal the headlines, and on this evidence it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing these type of venues for long.