Title: Frankie Goes To Hollywood/Berlin: Manchester G-Mex Centre
Publish date: January 17 1987
WAR ON THE WASTELAND
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD/BERLIN
Manchester G-Mex Center
WITH THE sanitised strains of ‘Take My Breath Away’, Berlin swopped transatlantic obscurity for a premier position in Hitsville; and won the attention of everyone from Ronald ‘Top Gun’ Reagan to the designer-clad fans.
“This is our first visit to your wonderful country,” said singer Terri Nunn, and the Frankie-fixated hordes cheered their welcome. This is, after all, the land of the £15 sweatshirt, the £4 programme and extortionate pop, and Berlin came perfectly attuned to the needs of arena-scale rock.
There’s plenty of flash; all the visuals and well-meaning theatricals of a textbook show, and certainly not what the single had suggested. But take away the voice and Berlin look suspiciously like a bunch of techno-crazed sessionmen. Boldly flying where hundreds have been before.
It was Terri alone who made their half hour bearable. Forceful and self-assured, the most obvious comparison is with Tina Turner. Midway through that single, she decided on an unaccompanied walk around the G-Mex Centre, which not only confused the lighting men but was — in the midst of 10,000 Frankie fans — a pretty brave feat. Returning to the stage to perform Berlin’s new single ‘You Don’t Know’, she won the applause of the whole stadium.
Twenty minutes later, a shower of fireworks and the intro from ‘Warriors Of The Wasteland’ concluded Frankie’s two year live absence. And there they were, slicker than ever: Holly Johnson, the charismatic frontman from his casaul rapport with the crowd to every last inch of his white mohair suit. Paul Rutherford offset his dazzling dance routine with a blaze of red hankies. And The Lads — guitarist Brian Nash, bassist Mark O’Toole and drummer Ped Gill — drove the Frankie powerhouse with no visible scars from their well publicised month of madness.
On this showing, Frankie doesn’t look like a beast in imminent danger of extinction. Nor does it sound like one. OK, so the new material lacks the original fire, but judged against the sweeping standards of ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’, post-’84 Frankie songs were always doomed to failure. The first half of the set is largely derived from their second LP, ‘Liverpool’ (also known as ‘From The Diamond Mine To The Factory’), and any reservations about the monotonous tempo are compensated for by the spectacular show and the conviction with which Holly sings.
That said, the crowd will always believe that the old ones are the best. And it’s not until they hit The Pleasuredome that Frankie shift into top gear and give everyone what they came for. Paul Rutherford reappears in a Frankie Says Use Condoms T-shirt and, after a final flourish of fireworks, they wind up with ‘Relax’.
By the encore, Holly Johnson has the crowd in the palm of his hand — but has no intention of clenching his fist. After teasing everyone with Liverpool v Manchester banter, he launches into Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’. Tonight, for all their elaborate visuals and mega-sound effects, Frankie achieved the near impossible. They made arena rock seem human.