Relax! Johnson delivers exactly what the audience wanted. An evening of drum and bass heavy pop/rock pierced by his distinctive voice and peppered with the hits of his past.
The voice is impressive, his sound is unique, edgy and powerful. His tone is effectively shrill, at times angry and at others gentle. His Liverpool heritage shows through, the delightful – to my scally ears – scouse twang. What’s not to love about this icon of an era when a number of bold pop artists came out of the pop industry closet and declared their anger about gay politics and their joy of gay life, and for life maybe read sex. Holly was a hero and that heroism remains.
The band for this tour is remarkably tight, pounding drums, full on keyboards and classy guitar and bass with occasional blasts of sax, the kind of rock beats and rhythms that get audiences on their feet, dancing and punching the air.
The set opened with a series of throbbing numbers, that pounding sound that drove us all onto the dance floors of gay clubs back in the early 80s. Some of you may have danced to them in straight clubs too, but they were OUR anthems! Johnson sang some of the more memorable numbers from his solo albums but it was without doubt those huge hits from the Frankie Goes To Hollywood days that created the most excitement and had the crowd up and dancing. And what hits they were. Relax, Two Tribes, Welcome To The Pleasuredome, all delivered with the strength and impact of the original recordings, un-messed with joy.
Johnson not only sounds good though, he looks great, the once dark quiff now silver, no crazy attempts here like so many ageing pop puppets to disguise advancing years, the leather pants, black T-shirt and liberal smattering of sequins sparkling on his small frame and once the jacket is shed he reveals a full on sequinned top that could have been borrowed from Angela Rippon – a tiny slice of campery that brought a smile.
My favourite moment had to be, apart from those big hits, when he sings This Was Me from the film version of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and which he sang with Richard E Grant on that soundtrack. It had a moving poignancy that I am sure many of us in the room last night would have felt.
The show is illustrated with animated projections, some great, some less so, the ones for the big numbers working best and of the rest Perfume perhaps the most successful. The sound was good too, only occasionally that relentless beat overpowering Johnson.
The evening finished with an encore of The Power Of Love, which he declared his favourite number. Holly Johnson may not have received the accolades of some of history’s LGBTQI+ pop stars but for the audience last night he is clearly the shining star.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall