Frankie Goes to Hollywood shatters glass (and preconceptions) in Vancouver

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 28, 1985

By Steve Newton

Frankie said BANG! three times last Saturday (June 22)—and with a trio of heart-stopping explosions blew out 61 windows of the War Memorial Gym.

You couldn’t really blame the boys from Liverpool for wanting to go out with a shatter though. It was the final date of their first—and much ballyhooed—North American tour, and a wild, anything-goes feeling was in the air and on the stage.

It was there when Frankie said PIE! and band members lambasted opening act Belouis Some (Bel-oo-ee Soam) with cream pies at the end of their set. You could say Belouis—also known as Neville Keighley, not relation to Joey—was asking for it, closing with a song called “Target Practice”.

And it was there when, at the end of Frankie’s encore (Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and a second “Relax”) Belouis and a bunch of roadies attacked Frankie with champagne and talcum powder and a melee ensued. But poor Neville got the worst of it again, as Frankie singer Holly Johnson rallied his troops. They grabbed Belouis and pulled his pants down. “Shine the spotlight on his ass,” demanded Johnson, and it was done.

Whatever Frankie wants, Frankie gets.

Wild stuff, but tame compared to what Frankie used to do onstage in the early days. What does Frankie say about the stories of women in bondage gear being tied up onstage and whipped?

“Yeah, we used to do that,” drummer Peter Gill told the Straightbefore the show, “more to get noticed than anything else. When you’re not no one, you have to do something for people to look at ya.”

And look at them they did, especially when the clashing rock-meets-gay-disco of Frankie’s chart-busting singles “Relax” and “Two Tribes” hit the airwaves. But even though the latter sold six-million copies worldwide in its first year, and the former sold a half-million copies in its first week (in Britain alone), there was always the suspicion that Frankie were nothng more than a studio machine created by producer Trevor Horn. Whether Frankie could deliver the goods on stage or not was unknown.

On Saturday Frankie delivered. With an elaborate and highly-effective lighting setup, clever staging, and easily the best sound these ears have ever heard in the old Gym, Frankie was a knockout. The go-for-broke musicianship of guitarist Brian Nash, drummer Gill—and particularly bassist Mark O’Toole—was bang-on, as was that of the second guitarist and keyboardist they brought along for the ride.

No one could steal the show from ringleader Johnson though, and whether square-dancing with a gorilla-suited someone for “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” or leering through the introduction to “Krisco Kisses” (“It’s time to get lubricated!”), the 24-year-old singer lived up to his name. He was nicknamed Holly after the character in Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side”.

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