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Friday 17 November 2023

Review: Holly Johnson @ Brighton Dome Concert Hall

Nineteen-eighty-four belonged to one band, and one band only, writes Stuart Avis - Frankie Goes To Hollywood. They outsold Wham!, Duran Duran, Culture Club and even Queen. They have not one, but two records sitting in the top ten best selling singles of all time in the UK.
Credit Andy Sturmey

Frankie's flame burnt bright and fast, but has made a lasting impression on the musical landscape. 

The five scouse scallies that embedded themselves in everything from Look In to NME, from Razzmatazz to the nine o'clock news, scored a short string of hits, all of which are revisited tonight as vocalist Holly Johnson played his debut solo Brighton show at The Dome. Sadly Holly was without those fellow scallies who shared his journey in the mid-80s. 

Their reunion for the Eurovision opening party earlier this year in Liverpool was a springboard for the false hope of thousands of fans worldwide. But Johnson comes armed with a backing band that plays it faithful and true.

Marking the 40th anniversary of the juggernaut that was Frankie's first single, Relax, and the 35th anniversary of his debut solo album, Blast, Johnson is in fine vocal form and humour, making all these achievements feel like mere moments ago.

Recreating those huge productions live on stage - spearheaded by Trevor Horn and his team - was a near impossibility four decades ago, but technology has finally caught up with the Frankie sound. 


Now Johnson and his band make it look easy and with even more punch, if you can believe that"s even possible? One can only imagine how electrifying the show would be with a full compliment of Frankies.

An opening volley of Warriors of the Wasteland and Welcome to the Pleasuredome pave the way for some deep cuts from Johnson's solo career, peppered with all four hits from Blast and Frankie's Rage HardAmericanos and Love Train almost steal the show, but Johnson still has aces up his sleeve.

The final section of the show begins with the end of Frankie. Their last hurrah, Watching the Wildlife, feels bittersweet when Johnson places it in this context, but the aforementioned juggernaut is about to plow through the audience.

Forty years ago the single, Relax,  sounded massive. Forty years later it still sounds massive. Live? Well, it's off the scale, packing a punch that the heaviest of metal bands can only dream of. 

The song, launched in 1983, tore a new one in 1984, and for four glorious minutes the Brighton audience were back in that moment, complete with handheld lamp scanning the audience and faux robotic head turns.

The only way Johnson could follow that was by doing exactly what he and his fellow band members did in 1984, smack everyone round the head with Two Tribes to round off the set.

The Cold War anthem that almost hogged the top spot of the charts for the whole summer of that year unfortunately remains as relevant now as it did then. 

Gorbachev and Reagan are replaced with images of Ukraine on screen, hitting home it's still very important message.

The Power of Love is the sole encore, bolstered by a crowd singalong at levels normally reserved for Queen's stadium fillers. It's emotional, it's beautiful, it's perfect.

Holly say no more.

by: Stuart Avis




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Ravi Adelekan & Poundland Foundation

Ravi Adelekan, a nine-year-old boy from Brighton, was one of twelve children and their families who had their wish granted to visit the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone over the weekend. This was thanks to a £30,000 donation from the Poundland Foundation to Make-A-Wish UK.

Memory Walk is back and locals can join thousands taking part in Brighton Memory Walk - at Hove Lawns No.1, on 29th September 2024.

FareShare Sussex & Surrey has launched a new crowdfunding campaign to help charities and community groups increase their capacity for frozen food, to feed more people experiencing hunger and food poverty.

A Brighton teacher who helps struggling local families with clothes and food, raises money in charity fun runs and regularly dons fancy dress to read to children at local events has been nominated in a national Teacher of the Year competition.
Credit: Dean Koopman

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour is bringing a new collection of ocean-themed films to Brighton Dome, this autumn. 
Credit Shervin Lainez

Alt-pop duo Cults will play Concorde 2, Brighton, later this year in support of the band's fifth studio album, To The Ghosts.

Heads On, the official charity for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is announcing the launch of Living Histories - an oral history project capturing the life stories of service users and staff with experience of NHS mental health services in Sussex. The charity is seeking volunteers to be trained as oral historians to collect stories across the county.

The first-ever Brighton & Hove performance by one of the most listened-to living pianists in the world today will take place at The Old Market this November.

Immortal Apples, Eternal Eggs  - at Hastings Contemporary -  is a meeting of two of the UK's most significant collections – The Ingram Collection and the David and Indrė Roberts Collection.

Carl Cox is one of the most in demand DJs, multi award winning, with countless club dates and festival appearances every year. 

Born in the Philippines and raised in London, Brighton-bound Beatrice Laus, known as Beabadoobee, has emerged as a British indie icon.

Lighthouse Project Space - Brighton's first ever public, youth-led artspace – opens this month with a programme of public events and activities.

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