Live Review

Johnny Foreigner, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Their noisy pop has never seemed more willing to burst free of the toilet circuit.

Dragging the keytar out of its 80s pop grave, Johnny Foreigner have recruited a new body. Swirling around with the archaic instrument, the mysterious addition is soon revealed to be controlling the band’s backdrop projections with it. As each keystroke translates to a corresponding illustration with pinpoint timing, it becomes exemplary of just how divorced the ‘slacker pop’ term is from the hard graft its subjects invest in their work.

Tour support Radstewart are the new poster boys of said ‘slacker’ scene, and though tonight marks their first hometown show since Christmas, they’re far from resting on their laurels. Their ramshackle indie takes on a far sharper edge live, with frontman Jac Jones practically screaming some of his infamously observational lyrics. Their quaint charm is as evident as ever, but the ever-increasing notches on their touring belts have given them a confidence that could see them hit much loftier heights.

But for now, it’s the turn of the old guard. At the mid-point of their set, Johnny Foreigner’s Alexei Berrow addresses the crowd with a weary smile. “It’s now that point in the set,” he declares, “where we are contractually obliged to play you a song from 2008 – back when we were going to be famous.” While they might not have hit the heights that they were promised way back when, that certainly hasn’t stunted Johnny Foreigner’s development. Alongside the aforementioned keytar-wielder, newest permanent addition Lewes Herriot has injected the band with a fresh energy that belies their eight years on the road, and their noisy pop has never seemed more willing to burst free of the toilet circuit.

With an effortless, constant rapport with the crowd - which results in several fourth-wall breaking conversations between songs – Johnny Foreigner have never seemed so settled. Latest album ‘You Can Do Better’ is undoubtedly their masterpiece; while the Friday night crowd, eager for a party, laps up the classics, it’s the newer stuff that will cement their place for years to come. ‘WiFi Beach’ and ‘Shipping’ are perfect examples of just how far their barbed guitar pop has come, but it’s in ‘Riff Glitchard’ that they have found their evolution. The slow-burning, almost post-rock-esque ballad is an undoubted highlight, hushing the rabble immediately, before erupting back into the maelstrom of - as Radstewart put it just an hour earlier - “major riffage”.

With ‘You Can Do Better’, Johnny Foreigner have created a work that has not only revitalised them as a band, but is fitting reward for all their efforts to date. While they have unquestionably already put in the hours, if they can muster the energy to keep going, they may just find themselves hitting far greater heights. Judging by the sweat dripping from the now five-piece as they leave the stage, energy isn’t something they struggle to muster.

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