Johnny Borrell & Zazou at Rough Trade East
Lynchpins of the indie scene, Razorlight once reached festival headliner status, but in the last few years we haven’t heard much in the way of new music or wild antics. Having collaborated on their last single in 2008, Borrell has decided it is time to temporarily venture to new musical pastures.
One expects the frontman to swagger on stage with all the bravado of a musician who has had such smash hits as America, yet this is not the case, and Borrell is keen to let you know it. He admits this is the first elevated stage he has played upon recently, despite dates in Amsterdam and Paris. Being a solo artist, he embraces the comfort of a small venue and humbly talks to the audience about the inspirations behind his new tracks, making frequent references to the French influence on the four-track cassette he is promoting.
Aesthetically, his band Zazou live up to the French subculture for which they are named, their snappy dress sense incorporating fur hats, sunglasses, waistcoats and pink stripes. And it is not just their clothes that set them apart: their instrumental skill is also striking, the piano and sax being the most prominent. Jaoa Mello swings into fantastic saxophone solos, Darren Barry adds a perfect dance feel from the piano, and Fred Stitz returns from Razorlight to jam with Borrell on percussion.
Masterminded in the south of France last year, the new songs have a party spirit in mind; it is a balmy European vibe, full of tuneful harmonies, and a step away from indie guitar strumming. The band constantly interchange instruments and at times Borrell simply concentrates on his vocals.
The experienced singer acts unpretentiously but his performance is full of reprised lyrics: perhaps his media persona was mere hype. This seems likely until he sings about an ex-girlfriend, always on the cover of magazines (“byline says she is still in love with me”), and follows with a somewhat odd re-enactment of her behaviour.
Aside from this, the musical change of pace and his sojourn in France have been a step in the right direction for Borrell – the double A-side of Dahlia Allegro and Pan-European Supermodel Song are perfect examples. The crowd also enjoy his as yet unfamiliar songs such as Power to the Woman, exclaiming “Go Johnny, Go!” and enthusiastically begging him “Please come back to us!” If we are lucky, it looks like he might just do that.
Photos: Dwaine Field-Pellew
For further information and further solo ventures visit Johnny Borrell’s website here.
Watch Johnny Borell and Zazou performing live at Rough Trade East here: