Title: Stage fright
Author: Paul Mathur
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD/BERLIN
G-Mex Centre, Manchester
MR HOLLY Johnson is right, shooting stars never do stop, more’s the pity. Instead they tumble entropically to the back of beyond, hollering, hooting and turning sparkly dreams into broken promises. Apt then that Berlin should be supporting, little comets burning up through the blackness, but at least looking upwards.
The Adult Orientated Rock palaver is one of the necessary evils created by the invention of large cars, and as such might as well have Berlin’s drippy oomph at the forefront. “You Take My Breath Away” soaks leisurely into a few thousand casual skulls, summoning cliché and candour into a fizzy sweet rather softer than the rest of Berlin’s occasionally attractive set.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood were perfect for a night in Liverpool a couple of Christmases ago. Their show stuffed saucy arrogance and reckless delight into an hour and a half’s education in the noise of pop art. Nineteen eighty seven, Manchester, and somehow the fun has turned to mopey motions. The stage set is grander, sloppier than they need, Ped and his drumkit clenched in a giant Frankie fist like a post-come tissue. Sharp suits and stage explosions pad out the Frankie panto. The music starts up, the audience get terribly excited, and still behind it all, the dull thud of comfort chips away at the band’s remaining point.
You know exactly how it is. Yes, the lads ran on and waved their arms, and Paul and Holly skipped around like Fred and Gene, and then there was that moment when Holly did his Marcel Marceau bit which was probably dead good, but you couldn’t tell because he was so far away from it all and… the rest of an overlong and undereager set is probably less painfully left in the back of your mind.
The sad thing is that it’s impossible to stop the crumbly confusion of the post-Bang Frankie. It’s hard to believe that anyone involved with the group, except perhaps for the three lads, feel any satisfaction, stimulation or beauty in what they do, but reversing the plod from pop to pomposity and restoring any cheeky pleasure is about as feasible as ramming toothpaste back into the tube. And so as “Rage Hard” and “Warriors Of The Wasteland” typify the “Liverpool” LP’s queasy crunch pop caricatures, only the disco dollies and Kevin Keegan lookalikes find the Frankie cartoon escapades much fun anymore.
There were some seconds when the group did more than play at being cash registers around the keyboard crescendo and the controlled explosions. Like when Holly said “Hello Liverpool”, or when “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” spurted into something that sounded like “Boogie Nights”. The song may well, as a friend pointed out, be “a bit ging gang goolie”, but epicurian slogans were always the band’s strongest point.
“The Power Of Love” recalled a certain melodramatic appeal, but by the time “War” and “Born To Run” had been bundled clumsily around the stage, any memory of Frankie’s once seductive features had trickled through the cracks and down to the cold streets below. There used to be a time when the word “desire” was important to an appreciation of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s giggly appeal. These days the waiting parents are sexier than the audience, and look almost sad as they brush ice cream smudges from satisfied, smiling mouths. Come back to bed, boys.