Live | Johnny Foreigner @ Joiners, Southampton – 21.03.14
“We’re still the next Bloc Party, right…?”
It’s been a long, long time since Johnny Foreigner‘s debut album Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light greeted us, along with labels of the Birmingham-based then-three-piece being the next blah blah whatever, and it’s before rolling out one of its hits tonight that frontman Alexei Berrow refers to it as the part of the set where “we feel like we should play an old one to please you all”.
It seems like the band view it as the ‘necessary evil’ part of a Johnny Foreigner setlist in 2014, but it proves not all that necessary at all. Songs from the band’s recently released fourth album You Can Do Better make up every highlight of tonight’s show, and it can already be cast in stone that they’ve just released their best album; their ‘classic’, if you will.
The crowd choose via a game of rock, paper, scissors whether the band play ‘Eyes Wide Terrified’ or ‘Salt, Peppa & Spinderella’ and it’s all very nice, but the band really impress in other areas.
It really takes seeing Johnny Foreigner live to take stock of just how far they’ve come since the outset. Firstly, tonight there are five members onstage, including a keytar player projecting stunning illustrations onto a backdrop, teaming every audible delight the band serve up with a visual one alongside. The band also seem more at ease than ever with Lewes Herriot on guitar, and a Lewes-less Johnny Foreigner seems almost inconceivable now. The level of progression that having two guitars has given Johnny Foreigner on YCDB is doubled on the live stage. This is shown best in new cut ‘Riff Glitchard’, a down-tempo slow burner that shows the band at their most unashamedly emo, with Berrow and Herriot’s guitars intertwining with a confidence that Johnny Foreigner have never exuded until now.
Choice cuts from the band’s back catalogue litter the setlist, but it’s tracks from You Can Do Better, about half of which is aired, that the band seem the most comfortable with, and consequently the songs that are also received the best; ‘Shipping’ is as gloriously riotous as on the album, and ‘WiFi Beach’ shows the band execute the soaring chorus to almost perfection.
Johnny Foreigner always had the hooks, the cutting lyrics and the potential, but now, on the back of their best album and with a bolstered live set-up, you can expect that by the end of the touring cycle for You Can Do Better, the half of the Joiners that is empty tonight will be filled with new converts to an ever-improving Johnny Foreigner.