Johnny Foreigner, No support

James McDonald 18/05/2009

Johnny Foreigner treat fans to a free London show in reassurance that they haven't simply been twiddling their thumbs for the last few months. Carving a name for themselves as one of those relentless bands who often spend more time hauling their gear along the road than they do actually using it, the trio are constantly promoting new singles and just generally striving to get their name out there. So naturally, when this trend was broken earlier this year and JoFo slipped rather silently from our radars, it was joyously because they've finally found the time to get themselves together in a padded room and lay tracks for their second album, scheduled for a September release.

Tonight's show, in a venue which was worryingly empty until it got dark, quickly progressed as an apparent rent-a-crowd arrived en mass and choked all available space in mere minutes. With an adequate audience, the band agreed to take to the stage (members could be seen mincing around pre-show looking equally concerned by the early lack of support), and continued to deliver a break-neck set lasting just under an hour, one which in retrospect seemed like a duration of no more than 20 minutes, given its pace.

The set was, in essence, a showcase for the new material they've been writing over the last few months, of which they've managed to compile an enviable amount. Briefly speaking to Alexei post-set, he confessed that although the initial recording had been finished on schedule some time ago, they band were kindly granted extra time to put extra material they'd been writing on to tape. This comes as little surprise when you assess the formula JoFo have expertly mastered; they write enthusiastic and often explosive three minute energy bursts, structured around a panoply of awe-inspiring guitar riffs and youthful yelping. Indeed, this whole experience is really taken to an extra level when seeing this band live, primarily inducing a gawping bemusement at Alexei's fretboard, and how seamlessly he plays his broken melodies. It's a sight to behold; one which merely listening to and trying to picture from record simply doesn't work.

Opening with tactfully timed new single Feels Like Summer, whilst closing the set with a typical guitar throwing tantrum (for the promotional video, we assume, since there are cameras carefully positioned around the stage) and a reprised echo of the opener, it all succeeded in tying everything together nicely. That said, I've one or two reservations with the single itself, appreciative of its nature in giving the contingent something to feast upon until the album's release, but unconvinced by its merit as a whole. Anyway, I'll save that one for a rainy day. By-and-large the new material stands up tall against the previous gems they selectively weaved into their set tonight, all of which were accompanied by enthusiastic sing-a-longs from a grateful audience, albeit the emphasis was always on the new. From what could be drawn, the band are sticking to what they know, never straying too far from their winning credo whilst adding occasional instrument swapping for variation and cameo appearances on a second guitar for extra beef. It was more than enough to whet the appetite, and even though attendees were constantly battling with a wall of distortion from the guitar amps and the often ear-piercing levels, it was this new direction which shone outright tonight - as good a reassurance as any that there's life left in Johnny Foreigner yet.