Razorlight: ULU, London, Tuesday July 25
Borrell and the boys prove maturity doesn’t have to be a dirty word
Sometimes, when people grow up and leave their scruffy punk roots behind them, they ditch the drainpipes and become suited-up wage-slaves. Other times, they set their sights a bit higher and produce epic, stadium-sized rock that would make Bono weep into his wrap-around shades. Can you guess which option Razorlight have gone for? In the two years since the release of their debut album, the ’Light have gone from being scraggy Whitechapel urch-rockers to a band that shudder with seriousness.
Just look at Johnny Borrell’s grumpy expression. After opening the set with a rambunctious ‘In The Morning’, 800 adoring fans are cheering on his every twitch – yet he can’t even give them a smile. It’s all part of the certain arrogance that we’ve come to except from Johnny – a pocket-sized rock star in every sense of the word, right down to his skin-tight white jeans.
‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Stumble & Fall’ are given an extra frisson by the fact that there are just under a thousand backing singers hollering along with every word and chucking their beer in the air, despite the venue being hotter than high summer in Hades. The heat obviously takes its toll on Borrell, who, with bouncy curls plastered to his head, whips off his flimsy shirt mid-set. Unlike Morrissey, who swiftly covers up with another expensive shirt whenever he strips off onstage, Borrell spends the rest of the gig topless, looking like he hasn’t just been hard at work on the new album, but also been nipping down to the local Fitness First a fair few times too.
But it’s the new stuff that really gets the crowd sweating – a clutch of contagious, ground-swallowing rock songs that could easily fill venues 20 times as big with their bombastic pageantry. ‘Los Angeles Waltz’ shows us that, while Johnny may be borrowing from the American big guns and namedropping Kings Of Leon, his heart is still firmly based in Britain. ‘Don’t Go Back To Dalston’ continues the London-centric Brit-rock, and Johnny’s hometown crowd can’t get enough.
Like the new album, the show is short but sweet, and after only an hour the band skulk offstage, returning for a single song encore – the future classic ‘America’. It’s a tune that matches up in size to Borrell’s ego – a fantastic slice of Springsteen-influenced power rock that makes other marathon ballads look like nursery rhymes in comparison. Tugging at the heart strings with their longing lyrics and reverberating, mouth-watering tunes, this is British rock we can all be proud of.