Suck on this Uncle Sam
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
Washington DC Ontario Theatre
IT WAS history — as much as anything could be described as such in this silly ole business of rock ’n’ roll. Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Amercian debut on Election Night 1984 20 blocks north of the White House.
So ticked were Frankie by the adulation that erupted from them at this seedy Kung Fu theatre they seemed genuinely dumbfounded by it all. Everyone there, risking a nasty spill, danced and fought for glimpses from the edge of their fold-out chairs during the lesser songs. And during the hits the only thing missing was a human sacrifice.
Absent from the set were the trashier fillers that had disfigured the album. ‘Ferry’, ‘San Jose’ and ‘The World Is My Oyster’ were gone as were the speeches and incongruous gimmickry that tempted even the most stalwart Frankie fanatic into playing needle hopscotch. What remained were the real songs; a barrage so unrelenting and awesome that Giorgio Moroder couldn’t top it if he assembled a revue of his most famous hitmakers.
Holly Johnson was the focus. A screaming debauched messiah with sunglasses, white gloves, waxed back hair, a white tinselled dinner jacket with crucifixes patch on the lapels, clutching and moaning for the audience. Paul Rutherford, compact, well-tailored and butch, showed he may be the heir apparent to John Travolta. Mark O’Toole, Brian Nash and Peter Gill proved they were the real muscle and the reason why the band came off so well live.
Oh yes, Trevor Horn was there, playing keyboards, but his role more befitted a pimply support musician anxious to be the sixth Frankie than a mastermind.
’War’ started the set. Its chorus — GOOD GOD — was like getting punched in the stomach, appropriate considering that only minutes before Reagan had been declared a landslide winner. The set peaked around ‘Pleasuredome’, a song certainly equal to the singles, and experiencing it live, well, forward my messages to Babylon.
Frankie have lots of doubters here. Something about them seems to rub up a lot of American’s rock ’n’ roll elite the wrong way. Neither the Washington Post or Village Voice chose them in their week’s picks, but after seeing the show, the former’s critic at least was convinced. The comparisons were made to that other Liverpool band. A battle was won but the war isn’t over.