Once upon a time in America
The characters: five lovable pop-tops from Liverpool. The scene: New York, New York. The triumph: reported by Dylan Jones. The photograph: Brian Aris
US OF A are you ready to Frankie? Once upon a time in, Liverpool there were five lads; Paul, Ped, Nasher, Mark and Holly. Five Frankies all looking for a destination —
The happy accident —
They are as big in Britain now as they possibly could be —
This feeling of unrest came with them to the States: the ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Relax’ videos were receiving tepid rotation on MTV, there was “virtually no radio action, and people everywhere were saying: “But can they play live?“
Well, if you were to believe ‘Saturday Night Live’ on November 10 you would have thought not. In between sketches by the post Ackroyd/
They kicked off the tour with a low-key university date in Ottowa on October 31, followed by two dates in Montreal and two more in Toronto. So far so good.
“Why have you come to see Frankie Goes To Hollywood tonight?”
“Because they are making an important political message with their song ‘Two Tribes’ “
“What is that point.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
Well, even if the public seemed nonplussed, the US press were no longer bemused by the Frankies… And so on to New York.
The Ritz is like a 1930’s Camden Palace, a metropolis full of salivating New Yorkers, out of towners, personalities, punks and Frankiphiles. Three giant video screens shine down on a no-dancing crowd that awaits only one thing —
To the thunderous applause of a parched Ritz audience, the opening chords of ‘War’ come hurtling out of the speakers —
Paul Rutherford really comes into his own at this performance (and has improved tremendously since their gig at The Palace 18 months ago), and he proves what a true star he is by putting 100% into his act.
As ‘Relax’ sends the crowd into a palpitating frenzy, Holly Johnson starts to lift the shield of normality from his face —
The band as a whole show how good they are on ‘The Power Of love’, where every note and cymbal. crash is on cue, every synth line the right depth, every curled lip catching the right phrase. Watching them perform this song was nearly awesome… and there was no way they were going to let go now.
The cock-eyed slide-show hidden behind Ped’s drum kit shows various Frankie memorabilia and full colour Morley manifestos… and Paul Rutherford leaps into a trot as the band clock in at the funk factory on ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’.
This song leaves the studio version behind (where it belongs —
During ‘The Only Star In Heaven’, the shouts and chants from Holly’s cohorts sound just like vintage Clash… giving an aural dimension to the never-ending slide show of flashing sex, horror and crucifixion. “New York City up the arse,” announces Holly before they plunge into ‘Krisco Kisses’, again working up a mammoth sweat that hinged somewhere between white funk and electronic heavy metal.
Next up on the running board is ‘Two Tribes’ with Paul ‘Superstar’ Rutherford leaping and pogoing around the stage with a Ronald Reagan mask stuck to his face… and Holly ‘Arbuckle’ Johnson punching the air and extolling the audience… “This is a song about the fight between good and evil —
“We love you,” cried The Ritz… and indeed they did. Frankie knew this and walked to perform a predictable but unpredictably exciting ‘Born To Run’ and then a second I rendering of ‘Relax’ that was even better even looser —
Frankie played what was one of the most invigorating concerts yet seen this year. In an accomplished and passionate set they managed to win over the American audience and the considerable English contingent who were there to witness ‘The lads’ in full flight.