UEA, Norwich April 22, 2023
by Paul Hammerton
The visit of Razorlight to Norwich after a long absence means a sell-out at the LCR, and the hall is already fairly full when opener David Ellis takes to the stage.
Wearing a Canaries shirt seems a strange choice bearing in mind the poor show at Carrow Road earlier in the day. The reason? He’d been to watch his cousin playing for City.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see much of Sam McCallum, who saw red after only 42 minutes of the match. With a bit of luck, Ellis’s music will lift this crowd a little more than McCallum and his teammates did earlier…
But while he has a great voice and catchy songs, he takes self-effacement to a new level and never really connects with his audience.
It feels a bit of a wasted opportunity in front of such a large, good-humoured crowd here.
The second act tonight, Afflecks Palace, are a different case entirely.
Frontman James Fender arrives on stage with a large “We are Afflecks Palace” sign, and he soon has everyone focused on the band – not something every support act manages to do.
Fender has total confidence while never seeming arrogant. With bucket hat and dark shades, even before he opens his mouth it’s clear he’s a Mancunian.
While the influence of The Stone Roses is clear, Afflecks Palace are no pastiche. Their songs are catchy and the inter-song banter witty.
With no major record label deal or booking agent, Fender is honest about their role in the UK music scene – paraphrasing “With a bit of blaggery and a bit of luck, fulfilling your dreams is possible”.
They take full advantage of the opportunity offered by this prestigious support slot, and a return to Norwich would be most welcome.
Razorlight emerge onto a minimally-decorated stage and launch straight into Rip It Up.
In Johnny Borrell we have a frontman at the top of his game. Following the treat of seeing Brett Anderson and Suede here a few weeks ago, already this year Norwich gig-goers have been lucky enough to be treated to two performers with amazing stage presence.
Not that Razorlight are a one-man band. Drummer Andy Burrows dominates the stage – bearded and with hair flowing in the breeze of two cooling fans, he looks like a Viking at the helm of a longship, with a powerful sound to match.
The current line-up reunites those present in the heady days of the early 2000s, supplemented by be-suited keyboard player Reni Lane.
She quietly slips on and off stage unannounced but her contribution satisfyingly rounds off the sound on many songs.
As tracks from the first two albums flow, it’s a surprise just how familiar they are, even to those who are not true Razorlight aficionados.
The crowd are in fine voice, too, at times taking over the vocals from Borrell, to his obvious pleasure.
Classic tracks are interspersed with a few more recent songs, and at no point does it feel like a living-off-past-glories greatest-hits tour.
Perhaps due to the return of the original line-up, the band play with a wonderful freshness and seem to be greatly enjoying their return to Norwich.
Unsurprisingly, they close with America, and hearing it live proves just what a true classic it is.