Razorlight – Live at Leopardstown
When we spoke to Razorlight recently, guitarist Bjorn Ågren told us the indie icons are “just a little squat band,” and so “being in the charts was laughable”. Raid the charts, nonetheless, they did, consistently, with a series of huge hits in the mid ’00s. Needless to say their return to Ireland, complete with their original line up for the first time in a decade, and in the plush environs of Leopardstown, is a far cry from a squat.
There’s plenty that works about Leopardstown’s concept, though. Providing horse racing followed by short-format gigs, it’s relaxed – relaxed enough that we felt able to bring a 9 month old in noise-cancelling headphones – with a positive atmosphere and a real ‘summer celebration’ feel. It doesn’t, particularly, require any affinity whatsoever to horse racing.
When Johnny Borrell and co arrive, there’s an energy about them: gone is the brashness that used to characterise the frontman; in its place a kind of quiet bouncing confidence that might well stem from having the closely-knit old crew back behind him.
The reformed four-piece insist that their latest incarnation is about “seeing where it goes,” but with only one new single to date since the release of their 2018 album ‘Olympus Sleeping’, there’s more than a little bit of mid-00s nostalgia to the whole evening, and it’s all the better for it.
In fact, the setlist could reasonably be called ‘greatest hits’: it’s as close to a tour of the highlights of Razorlight’s back catalogue as you could hope to fit into a quick-fire 45 minutes.
The London-meets-Sweden combo open with a charismatic ‘Rip It Up’, segueing into ‘In The Morning’ and ‘Stumble and Fall’, with a sound that sits just about far enough from the recorded versions to emphasise the pace changes and throw Borrell’s vibrant vocal right to the front of the mix.
There’s real pleasure in the way they play: returned drummer Andy Burrows is flamboyant, Borrell full of smiling overstatement, and the twin axe team punctuating the sound with leaping moves and rock-out asides.
In fact, perhaps the finest moment of the set is the seemingly ad-libbed, extended version of ‘In The City’, which sees Borrell quip “this is what I sound like on the inside” as a garish and memorably messy series of guitar solos fly out over the half light.
Razorlight 2022 sound like someone took that old garage-rock sound and gave it a quick wipe over: it’s cleaner cut, the poppy hooks of ‘Who Needs Love?’ and ‘Before I fall To Pieces’ mixed with the messier angles of ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Violence Forever’.
It’s stark, too, how good some of those half-remembered lines are. Sure, the awkward “I met a girl, she asked me her name, I told her what it was” from ‘Somewhere Else’ might be one of the most pointless lines in rock, but in ‘Vice’, for example, Borrell excels: “I heard you say, sometimes you fall, into the arms of no-one at all” is half-cut pub philosophy at its finest.
And the live show, a rapid-fire exploration of the very best things about a scene now as derided as it was once praised, is a demonstration of why so many cared in the first place. Closers ‘Somewhere Else’ and ‘America’ are the kind of mass singalongs that brought Razorlight out of the squats and basements and into the outdoor-stage sunlight in the first place. They still sound fresh and engaging, while the band themselves seem to be living off the love-in that is the return to their original form.
They’re finely tuned, fun, and effortlessly charming.
Razorlight were dead. Not anymore: give us more sacred hours, and fading light. Long live Razorlight.