Johnny Foreigner / Talons

The chronicle of Johnny Foreigner's occasional visits to London continues. This time the venue was my student union, which is swanky as student unions go. The Guinness didn't taste half bad.

And there is seating, which I made use of during the set of the first (unknown, local?) support act. I refuse to be mean about them, for they look like upstanding gentlemen. I shall just stick to the facts: they played their instruments, and some organized noise came out. Meanwhile, I was reading Niall Fergerson's The Ascent of Money. A little incongruous to be thinking about the history of finance during a concert du rock, but there you go.

The second (touring) support group are called Talons, and they do violin-encrusted postrock. In a word: heavy. In two: heavy metal. A success mainly because the drummer was mesmerizing. The violins and guitars could just make droning noises and the band would be awesome.

Another retreat to the couches. Read some more about the role of bond markets in the American Civil War. But I couldn't concentrate. Band prep isn't supposed to be exciting, and yet the build-up gave me the jitters. JoFo gigs are explosive. The tension can be pretty unbearable.

A pause in the narrative for a confession: I didn't buy JoFo's second album, nor am I familiar with it through extralegal means. Several factors explain my betrayal. First, Drowned in Sound (who can fairly be described as JoFo partisans) gave it a weak review, which stopped me downloading it immediately upon release. Second, it's... concise. £8 was not going to buy me very much, particularly since I already owned the singles. Opportunity cost is important, people. £8 can be spent on a Dismemberment Plan album. Or Guinness. Third, my initial ventures on Spotify were less than revelatory. This was probably related to factor number four. The band (because they are the bestest ever) threw an EP of remixes on the web just before the album dropped. For free, may I stress. Go download! I think the EP wins over the LP, despite the ill-judged Internet Forever track. Compare the busy 'More Tongue' to the aching space of the Cycle Mix, or the stop-start of 'More Heart' to the control of Junior's version. Coati's rework of 'ShutUpAlright' dressed Kelly's voice in a way that punched harder than the thrash of the original. And JOCKS provided a summer anthem that managed to outblast the formidable 'Feels Like Summer'. Napoleon iii and Tom Campesinos! don't quite manage to erase the originals, but they had a tough brief, and their contributions are perfectly listenable. Alex laughed at going in a synth-pop direction for the next release, but from where I'm standing it doesn't look like a bad idea. With Grace, I elected to stick with the free remixes and forgo the costly album. Apologies for my mercenary nature.

So back to the gig and everything. The kick-off was a song I was unfamiliar with, but balloons were soon unleashed to distract me from this. Balloons were forgotten as 'Yes! You Talk Too Fast' came on. Much love for that and the later appearance of 'Cranes and Cranes', neither of which were played at the previous London gig, where they were missed. 'Feels Like Summer' and 'Eyes Wide Terrified' rounded off the opening package, and got everyone in the room jumping. As is proper.

The band seemed more relaxed than last time, perhaps because the venue was smaller? The tour had been less onerous? Balloons? Whatever it was, Alexei was more conversational, Kelly's face, and smile, were visible, and Junior felt comfortable enough to embrace his role as master of ceremonies, conducting the beginning and ending of songs, and bossing his co-workers when they got too unruly. They looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Moment of the night was rewarded to 'Spindarella' last time, the best song in the JoFo catalogue, but tonight's performance was overshadowed by what came immediately before. The forgettable 'Chose Yr Side' was redeemed very slightly by it serving as the lead into 'ShutUpAlright'. Instruments were swapped, and Kelly sat down on Junior's stool to sing her piece, arms wrapped nervously around themselves, face turned as much as possible away from the audience. At a gig filled with noise and yelling, Kelly gave us this little moment of frail, unfiltered beauty. Abandonment, heartbreak, and a rousing resolve, all in under two minutes. Amazing.

The play-every-instrument finale was given extra heft by the inclusion of Talons, who can make a LOT of noise. Awesome, like last time. No encore, again like last time. And like last time, I don't mind. I was pretty tired just standing there. Alex looked like he could drown in his own sweat. I was happy. Go home, write this.

I'll end on a note cribbed from a FoFo b-side that sums up the above exposition rather well: there's nothing I can say, I got exactly what I paid for. And I did. Thank you.

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