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Razorlight : Manchester Apollo

Borrell and the boys are back from the brink to prove they’ve still got that golden touch...

Razorlight : Manchester Apollo

It’s an affliction peculiar to us Brits that there’s nothing we
love more than a loser. Whether it’s a shafting in an international football
tournament or voting Tory (no really, some people still do), we
virtually award mediocrity with MBEs these days. Or at the very
least, platinum-selling albums. Everyone loves a loser. Which is why
everybody hates Johnny Borrell.

Since coming out of the traps 18 months ago, he and his wonky-dentured
gob have casually declared his own genius at every available opportunity and
boasted that, “I’m going out to America and I’m not coming back until
I’m king”. While the world of indie rock has long treasured its own
self-loathing, there’s nothing dearer to our Johnny, it seems, than
his Messiah complex. Except – and here’s the rub – he backed up the
self-generated hyperbole with the brilliant debut, ‘Up All Night’, a
record the world wanted to be terrible. Borrell simply blew an
impossibly tuneful raspberry back in its face. Then, at last, it went tits
up when he freaked out during an American tour, ‘lost his voice’ and
had to cancel these rescheduled dates – what should have been his victory
lap. And thank God for it, because now that fame’s fucked with his head and
we know he’s human, he and his band have become ten times more interesting.

First things first, though; these gigs represent a step up to the big
league for Razorlight and the ante has been upped considerably. A
giant LCD screen counts down to the band’s arrival and stage props are
littered around to create a delightful, style-free ’70s sitting room motif.
Not that The Borrell needs shrubbery and screen doors to assert his
claim as rock’s dainty-toed Samson. From the opening notes of ‘Rip It
, it’s painfully clear that whatever people wanted Razorlight
to prove was proven a long time ago. He struts around the stage, casually
tossing off items of clothing to the screams of teenage girls and modestly
informing us that, “This is the best song I’ve heard in a long fucking
time,” before launching into ace newie ‘Keep The Right Profile’.
Make no mistake, while the last 12 months have galvanised Razorlight
into a proper band – as opposed to an ego-trip – this is still very much
Johnny’s show, and no amount of Björn’s leg-splays or
Carl’s indie aerobics workouts will change that. Whether he’s scaling
the PA stack during a frenzied ‘Which Way Is Out’, or down the front,
boggle-eyed and freaking out during ‘In The City’, the spotlight
rarely leaves him. This, then, is the send-off ‘Up All Night’
deserved. The question now is – where to from here? Johnny Borrell
would tell us the stratosphere, and not for the first time, he’d probably be
right. The bastard.

Barry Nicolson

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