It may surprise those of you who actually know me that it’s taken me this long to write a gushing post/love letter about Johnny Foreigner, but here it is. I am a massive fan of the band, and last night’s gig at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds reminded me exactly why.
The gig started normally enough, with an ebullient run-through of ‘Yr All Just Jealous’ that even saw the band valiantly attempt to make the word ‘Leeds’ stretch out to three syllables (replacing ‘Birmingham’ in the last line of the song, natch). Fired up already, the crowd barely needed prompting to start clapping and chanting the intro to ‘Feels Like Summer’ – everything seemed to be going swimmingly. The band then pause to tell us about last night’s terrible show in Manchester (cue obvious boos), and specifically how they managed to cock up ‘Sometimes, In The Bullring’ – before duly proceeding to mess it up again tonight. And then halfway through their second run-through of it, the PA cuts out. Cue confusion, uncertainty, and a chorus of ‘Suicide Pact, Yeah?’ from the audience. Hitting upon a potential time-filler while the PA problem is sorted, the band suggest that they play while we sing – just as the power to the stage cuts out entirely.
A handful of people begin to leave at this point, but the majority remain, eager to see the rest of the set, no matter how long it takes. JoFo, the lovely types that they are, share their rider by way of an apology – gin, pretzels and Space Raiders are consumed by the waiting crowd, and Kelly also gamely takes someone up on their suggestion that she plays charades with the audience. Turns out Leeds is pretty damn good at it – so good that at one point Kelly expresses her gratitude that she doesn’t have to try and act out the ‘Willy’ bit of ‘Free Willy’. After a failed attempt at a chorus of ‘Kumbaya’ and more charades, the problem is finally fixed after about half an hour of waiting.
Understandably grateful to their fans for sticking around, the rest of the set feels like one long, bashful thankyou from the band to us. Every track gets a hearty reception, from the singles to rarely-played oldie ‘Champagne Girls I Have Known’, and the crowd are in good voice throughout, particularly during the aforementioned singles ‘Eyes Wide Terrified’ and ‘Our Bipolar Friends’, the latter of which received a welcome airing after beating ‘Sometimes, In The Bullring’ in a vote. They end up playing ‘…Bullring’ anyway though, exorcising the ghost of the power failure once and for all by getting it spot on. The old songs go down so well that at times they seem almost apologetic about playing their new material, but they needn’t be as it’s all sounding fantastic – not least riotous new single ‘Criminals’ and set-closer ‘The Coast Was Always Clear’, which is a fitting successor to ‘Absolute Balance’ and tonight sees Alexei being held aloft on the arms of the crowd as the song reaches its euphoric climax. And thus, the band claimed a triumphant victory from the jaws of embarrassing defeat – but that’s not the only reason I love them. No, the simple reason is that for sheer number of lump-in-throat moments, there are very few bands who can match them – from twinges of sadness to bursts of pure joy, from soaring guitar lines to lyrics that hit you straight in the gut, the band’s music is an emotional rollercoaster. I may be cynical about a lot of things to do with music, but last night Johnny Foreigner reminded me that, yes – there are still some bands that make music worth believing in.
P.S. Also, whoever stole Alexei’s mic is a massive twat. The end.