The quality of Mersey is not strained
Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Liverpool Royal Court Theatre
Welcome to the traditional seasonal homecoming. And what a way to come back home!
Though their early days were highlighted by some notorious live dates on their native Merseyside and the release of ‘Relax’ was marked by a short series of PAs, Frankie Goes To Hollywood—
Cutting it in Trevor Horn’s studio and then selling their wares with engaging Scouse bravado and the assistance of the ZTT marketing machine was one thing: cutting it onstage in front of a live audience was going to be another matter.
But FGTH not only put on a far more proficient performance than most cynics would have thought possible, they also played with a power and panache that bore the hallmarks of a potentially great rock band.
It might have been Liverpool and it might have been just a few days before Christmas, but there was a distinct lack of the slack smugness and cosy camaraderie that characterised most of the major festive spectaculars in London. Stripping their sound down to its most basic ingredients, and confining any trace of Paul Morley’s astute verbal trickery to the words and images that adorned the hexagonal slide screen that hung behind them onstage, FGTH meant business.
They played the three singles, most of the LP and two of their three classy covers—
Rather than try to recreate Horn’s wall of sound onstage, the fistful of Frankies—
The songs are largely kept short and sweet—
But the music aside, the most enduring facets of FGTH live are their wonderfully engaging sense of camp, their witty and waggish scally sarcasm and the sheer directness of their act. Holly Johnson—
We get ‘Relax’, naturally: “Did you all come? I did… twice!“ We get some cheeky ‘Krisco Kisses’: “Most of you won’t know what this one is about!“ And we get a staggering, blistering ‘Born To Run’: “This one is an American anthem. They loved it over there… dickheads!“
The “dress rehearsal” dates the band did in America have honed their attack impressively and undoubtedly left their mark on the band’s ideas of presentation, the phrase “nice one”—
The night ends as only a night in Liverpool could with a truly anthemic ‘Ferry Across The Mersey’, performed with the group stripped to the waist and smothered in flurries of fake snow, a fitting finale to what was a quite devastating return home.
But what of the future? Although no-one realistically expects them to repeat the feats of last year with the same impact and gusto, FGTH will inevitably face something of a backlash in 1985. On the strength of this Royal Court coup, they certainly have the musical credentials to weather the storm.