Razorlight plays it safe at the Middle East

A review of Razorlight at the Middle East on March 9, 2009

, Staff Writer

Razorlight kicked off their month long promotional tour with an unquestionably safe performance on Monday night at the Middle East. Perhaps it was the long transatlantic flight or maybe the fallout from the abrupt departure of drummer Andy Burrows late last week, or even front-man Johnny Borrell’s fragile vocal chords, but for a band that is absolutely massive in the UK, the sixty minute set was too short and decidedly lacked both energy and passion.

With the venue packed with Boston’s ‘Euro Crowd’, Razorlight hit the stage with two upbeat danceable tracks, “Back to the Start” and “Keep the Right Profile”, both from their 2006 self-titled sophomore album, followed by a series of new songs from their recently released third studio album Slipway Fires “Burberry Blue Eyes”, “Wire to Wire” and “North London Trash”.

While their sound is distinctively similar on their first two albums (think The Strokes), songs from Slipway Fires are a departure from their traditional formula and showcase a more mature sound. In fact, much to the audience’s surprise, Borrell channeled his inner Chris Martin on the romantic ballad “Wire to Wire”, even taking a turn behind the keyboard. Unfortunately, the show pre-dated the album’s release, so this trio of songs literally sucked the energy out of the venue and sadly the band did not seem bothered by it.

In the middle of the set, the band picked things up a bit with” Stumble and Fall” from their 2002 debut album Up All Night, and the wildly popular “Before I Fall to Pieces”. Up next was one of the oddest moments of the show, the over the top theatrical performance of “In the City” during which Borrell seemingly tried to literally draw energy (without success) from the audience, it was almost if he was waiting for a muse to arrive (it was odd, trust me).

Fortunately, the band quickly recovered with one of the highlights of the evening. “Golden Touch” saw Borrell happily turned over the chorus to the audience and generating some goodwill. With the crowd finally dancing, the band played “America”, which was the easily the most popular song of the night and quickly transitioned to their upcoming single “Hostage of Love”. Razorlight then closed out the main set strong with “Somewhere Else” and returned to the stage for a quick encore, performing “In the Morning” and “Rip It Up”.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid show, replacement drummer David Sullivan-Kaplan literally did not miss a beat (pun intended), Borrell’s voice sounded great (notwithstanding non-stop rehearsals with Kaplan), the set list was diverse, and one can understand with upcoming performances on The Late Show with David Letterman and at the famed South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival that the London based quartet would want to work out all the kinks before hitting the national stage. But for a band that has its sights set on making a splash on this side of the pond, I expected more.& Hopefully the next time Razorlight hits the Hub, we will get to see what the hype is all about.

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