Johnny Borrell + Zazou, Zee Berg – King Tuts – 02/10/13

Having toured stadiums as the frontman of Razorlight there’s a risk that the crowded Tuts stage will not be large enough for Johnny Borrell as he rolls into Glasgow to promote his new album Borrell 1.

First up LA songstress Zee Berg treats us to a series of menacing ballads in her charismatic American drawl. Clad like a thrift shop Mary Poppins her quirkiness can seem a bit forced but when she switches to piano she treats us to a shadowy wander Nick Cave would be proud of. Ending her set with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ she skips off into the night having won over most of the sparse crowd.

By contrast Tuts is buzzing when Borrell and Zazou, his new backing group take to the stage. They’re a curious, theatrical bunch; swapping instruments and dancing fanatically, as they try to move a slovenly audience with their high tempo calypso rock schtick. Zazou clearly allow Borrell a degree of spontaneity that his other band’s widescreen hits lacked but alas, even live there’s no redemption for some of Borrell 1’s more wretched tracks. At their best, frantic Exile on Main St piano merges with early seventies pop-rock melody but the misfiring lyrics and wretched faux jazz-funk strangle too many of their new songs. As it is, the highlights are ‘Pan-European Super Model Song’, a turbocharged romp inspired by a band road trip to Barcelona to see Regina Spektor which nails the midpoint between Queen and Dexys Midnight Runners, and a theatrical rendition of the sole Razorlight track on show ‘In the City’.

As the band depart the stage it’s clear that Borrell relishes playing shows on his own terms and his bandmates high-energy performances alleviate some of the strain but it seems as if his muse is more reluctant. Maybe stick to the day job?

[Max Sefton]

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