Firebug is a cosy pub/bar with an upstairs venue area, with what is probably the greatest feature of a small venue I’ve seen yet – sofas! It’s not a big room either so there doesn’t feel anything impolite about sitting comfortably in a sofa/armchair to watch the supports. First up are Falcon who launch into some Tall Ships-esque math rock, but with lovely melismatic female vocals (although she’s a bit quiet – but that could be down to the down the sound person, or her cold). Playlounge wander on stage next with little ceremony, shaking the wooden floor with their furious noise-pop. There’s quite a bit of buzz around these guys at the moment, and they certainly deliver live.
Johnny Foreigner begin their set with Alexei and Kelly standing in the crowd to deliver ‘Johnny Foreigner Vs You’ entirely acapella (except for the piano melody playing quietly in the background). It’s a nice chance to see just how good Alexei’s voice is, it easily fills the room and Kelly’s slightly huskier answering phrases contrast well with his clear, emotive vocals. The softer atmosphere is soon shattered as they leap on stage to thrash out ‘Feels Like Summer. The set list is well chosen and they’re on top form tonight (despite some initial technical difficulties). There are a couple of new songs in the mix as well, from an album due out at the end of this month (“called NAMES…because names are important”). It’s difficult to judge new material on the basis of one listen at a gig, but it seems like Johnny Foreigner are set to continue with the gorgeous success that is ‘Vs Everything’. Both tracks are that blend of catchy beautiful melodies, and angry violent guitars, that Johnny Foreigner weave together so well.
They opt to leave out the usual ploy of leaving the stage only to return for an encore, instead explaining the situation and then diving straight into an old favourite ‘Sofacore’ (which at one point meanders into Star Trek and then back to ‘Sofacore’ again). The sublime ‘New Street, You Can Take It’ sees the whole crowd singing along for the final few lines, followed by ‘Absolute Balance’ – another old favourite, which closes things perfectly.
It’s the first gig Lobandwidth has reviewed in its/my new home of Leicester, and it’s a fittingly special one. Johnny Foreigner are perhaps not the most consistent live band in terms of sound - if you’re unlucky they can be a little ramshackle (but in a very endearing way). Either way you’re guaranteed a good show and an enjoyable evening regardless - and if you do catch them at their best, like tonight, they’re very very good indeed.
words by Mel Reeve