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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

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


Credit Rachel Sherlock

Known affectionately by her followers as 'That French TikTok Lady'- Tatty Macleod  will be bringing her debut hour Fugue, to Brighton. early next year.

Following a successful Edinburgh Fringe run, comedian, author and anaesthetist, Ed Patrick embarks on a debut tour that will bring him to Komedia Brighton, next Spring.

Following the successful return of the Youth Races in 2023, the race team at the Brighton Half Marathon have announced that their Youth Races will again be returning in 2024, with entries open now.
Credit: Romany Mark Bruce

Next year promises the release of new works from Brighton artist Romany Mark Bruce, creator and designer of Brighton & Hove's  Aids memorial statue TAY. 

One of comedy's greatest talents Catherine Bohart will bring Again, With Feelings - Catherine's twisted second coming of age saga - to The Forge Comedy Club, in Brighton, next Spring.

A major new project that explores the cultural impact of UK independent record stores that specialised in Black music from 1950 onwards, has been launched.

Get to shout out “RHLSTP!” like a proper cool kid as the multi-award-winning and perennially popular live podcast interview series in which comedian Richard Herring chats with some of the biggest names in comedy and entertainment, visits Komedia Brighton next February.  
Credit: Paul Winter

Independent grassroots venue The Old Market (TOM) has today announced its brand new Reigning Women season in 2024, with the announcement accompanied by a trailer that was filmed in Brighton and Hove.

A new winter light experience in Brighton comes to Stanmer Park in December.

Twelve Angry Men is playing Theatre Royal Brighton, until Saturday,  with Dallas star Patrick Duffy among its big-name cast. Below he chats about the play and his role 

Food waste charity FareShare Sussex & Surrey has launched an urgent appeal as it gears up for its busiest winter yet, with demand for food expected to hit record levels this year.
Credit: Phoebe Fox

Yard Act will release new album Where My Utopia? prior to a live date at Brighton Dome, early next year. 
Credit: Robert Piwko

Leading actor of stage and screen Teresa Banham (Royal Shakespeare Company) is set to join the  music and theatre company The Telling at St Anne's Church, Lewes, on Sunday 26th November with Vision, by acclaimed playwright/singer Clare Norburn and BAFTA-nominated director Nicholas Renton (Mrs Gaskells’ Wives & Daughters, Lewis, Musketeers).

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