Tag Archive: The Institute

Holly Johnson @ The Library, The Institute, Birmingham, 19 October 2014

In 1984 a few people got very hot under the collar about a single. It got banned from airplay on Radio 1 at a time when most the world listened to the station. An outrage many people said. But the people behind this song grinned broadly and merrily wound them up even more. This single became the most controversial and most commercial single of the decade, selling over 2 million copies.There was even T-Shirts. We love a bit of anti-establishment at the best of times. So roll on 30 years to 2014, “Welcome” to a bit of “Frankie Says Relax” with former Frankie Goes to Hollywood frontman Holly Johnson.
Holly Johnson
Wow. It’s been 30 years since the release of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s debut album  ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome.’ Over 30 years since that controversial single ‘Relax’. Frankie literally took over the airwaves for a brief moment in time.  ‘Pleasuredome’ had reported advanced album sales (in the days of the vinyl record) of over a million copies. Second album ‘Liverpool’ was a harder sell for a number of reasons, and Johnson walked releasing three solo albums  including his platinum selling number 1 debut solo album ‘Blast’ in 1989, ‘Dreams That Money Can’t Buy’ in 1991 and ‘Soulstream’ in 1999. And this year, 15 years on, he’s back with new album ‘Europa.’ Whilst he’s played the odd festival – this will be his first solo tour since 1987… so welcome to Holly Johnson: Unleashed from the Pleasuredome.

There’s no support tonight, although a DJ, Dave Kendrick, gives some tunes including remixes featuring Kraftwerk, Kate Bush and Heaven 17 and a snippet of Frankie. I have to say, we’re too busy chatting to take too much notice.

And just after 9, Johnson takes to the stage with full band in tow and starts off with ‘Atomic City’ and receives a big cheer from the audience – before here comes Frankie – ‘Warriors of the Wasteland’ and the rising epic ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome.’ Johnson may have recorded these over 30 years ago but his voice remains spot on, the band tight, and we know all the words.

“I’m not allowed to talk… or we won’t get many songs done….” he says in his quiet Liverpudlian accent. Another Frankie -‘Rage Hard’ – the crowd are dancing and clapping and the cheers getting bigger. And now to a solo hit ‘Love Train’ before… “we’re gonna risk a new one on you now… Dare we?” and we’re into a segment of newbies and solo stuff.

‘Heavens Here’ – “a festival treat” and ‘Americanos’ gets us dancing and a cheer on the closing line… “In the land of the free, you can be who you want to be…”

Holly Johnson-12
“Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. There are moments when you’re feeling all alone….” “Aaaahhhhh goes the crowd in sympathy. “Not tonight!” shouts a punter. And he delivers us ‘Lonesome Town’ before “scaring us with another new one” – title track from his new album – ‘Europa.’

Another excuse to dance. “You are a bit like sardines aren’t you?” he comments on the cosy crowd, “Not much room…..you can always rub up to the person in front of you….” as we’re into ‘Dancing With No Fear.’  He was on ‘Later….with Jools Holland’ and played this one – a ballad and his favourite song on the album ‘So Much it Hurts.’

And then we’re back in time, to  Frankie song he hasn’t sung since ’87, ‘Watching the Wildlife.’ Before a song he calls “the money shot.” Asking is we are ready – hey we know what’s coming – ‘Relax’ – in all it’s beating glory. Johnson has a flashlight and shines it over the audience. We’re a-dancing and singing. Timewarp baby. Awesome rendition – massive cheer.

A quick break and he’s back – with a change of jacket. Apparently he stopped the cold war with this one (so a comedian told him). ‘Two Tribes’. Class. And then to the special one. And it’s not just for Christmas – “I’ll protect you from the hooded claw, keep the vampires from your door” – it’s the epic ‘Power of Love’ The hairs stand up on our arms and we’re singing away. It’s amazing how many of us knew all the words. Spine-chingling.

Holly Johnson is affable and funny. And he likes his songs epic. And no count, those Frankie hits were special. It was great to hear them in full totally overblown and truly glorious colour. Johnson is out for a few dates – go check him out – it’s well worth it. Hopefully, he’ll be out and about far more than he has been for the last few years.
Holly makes you smile. And you can’t ask for much more than that….. according to his website:  Holly Johnson Cosmos Mariner, destination unknown. The Odyssey Continues…

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Setlist:
Atomic City
Warriors of the Wasteland
Welcome to the Pleasuredome
Rage Hard
Love Train
Follow Your Heart
In and Out of Love
Heavens Here
Americanos
Lonesome Town
Europa
Disco Heaven
Dancing With No Fear
Penny Arcade
So Much it Hurts
Watching the Wildlife
Relax

Encore:
Two Tribes
Power of Love

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Pictures couresty of Ken Harrison – Review for Gig Junkies.