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Arts and Entertainment

Razorlight and Red Cortez @ The Troubadour, 2/03/09

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Photos by Jessica Duston/LAist
I went to the Troubadour on Tuesday night on a mission. I was going to try and solve once and for all one of rock n' roll's great mysteries. Why is Razorlight so huge in Europe? Razorlight first emerged on the scene in 2004 with their debut album Up All Night. That album reached number three in the charts in the UK and barely cracked them here despite good reviews. So while in Europe, Razorlight sells out stadiums, in Los Angeles they can still play at the Troubadour.

The secret, I believed must be in their live performance. They must have a stupendously good show to attract so many fans. Right? It couldn't be their recordings. We had access to them here. It couldn't be their publicity team? I assure you that the editorial team gets a practical blitzkrieg of pr documenting their every move. I mean these guys got lead singer Johnny Borrell on the cover of Vogue in Britain, for Pete's sake. So it must be the show. Americans just don't have as many opportunities to see them live. Right? Well...sort of.

The show began with Los Angeles' own up and comers, Red Cortez, who are heading on tour with Morrissey next month. Formerly known as the Weather Underground, this young band mimics Bruce Springsteen's gritty working class rock with southern slide guitars. The last time I saw them was also in the Troubadour opening for Little Joy. The crowd was different this evening, but the reaction was exactly the same: general un-enthusiasm, followed by mild interest, and ending with utter captivation. Granted some of the attention stems directly from lead singer, Harley Prechtel-Cortez's wild head shakes the likes of which Little Richard would be proud. Some of them were probably a little worried that it would pop off his shoulders and roll off the stage. Antics aside, this is a band to watch especially with their debut album dropping later this year.

After the crowd was good and warmed up, Razorlight took the stage. The place went berserk. So much so that this reporter was forced to the up reaches of the balcony to jot down notes. Everyone at that place knew every single word by heart. Where had these people come from? And what were they seeing that I wasn't?

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To be fair Johnny Borrell is a great performer. That man acts out every phrase he utters with pride. When he took the stage he was dressed up like a gentleman who had had a late night on the town. In a blue blazer, grey scarf, and white button down shirt he looked positively respectable compared to his wild haired drummer and bassist. But not quite as dapper as his lead guitarist who was gussied up in a hat and suspenders.

The show itself was like those Hot Wheels cars you had as a kid. They would take forever to wind up, but once they were ready, man did they ever fly! Then you would have to go get them and start all over again. Razorlight took forever to warm up despite the efforts of their six roadies who got their equipment looking just show. (That's right six roadies! That's one and a half roadies per band member.)

But when they hit their stride they flew! When Johnny Borrell violently knocked over the mic stand and knelt, dripping with sweat, to sing In The City, it was almost as if Jim Morrison had returned from the dead and embodied his spirit. However, as soon as it was over he stood up, righted his stand, and sang a rather flat number. Then there were a couple of half-hearted songs before the boys were revved up, and then they took off with America. Listening to America was especially odd because that song is about television in America, and it was sung in Hollywood the place of its birth. Nevertheless Mr. Borrell gave that song his all.

Razorlight was like that all evening: flashes of brilliance followed by mediocrity. By the time the encore showed up though, Razorlight had been sufficiently wound up and played better than they had for their entire actual set. They had the whole place singing Stumble and Fall at the top of their lungs. Now all they need is a little more stamina. No one likes a rock band that runs out of gas.

My mission in the end was a failure. I guess Razorlight's huge following abroad is just one of those things I'll never understand. It will be filed under the mysteries a long with why Everybody Loves Raymondwas ever on the air, why Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline is played at Fenway Park, why people from Missouri pronounce it "Missoura" and ponchos (why not just have a cape and be done with it?) While Razorlight is treated like Nirvana abroad, around here they merit a justly deserved Better-Than-Ezra-like reception. I guess this proves once and for all that the one thing Europe and America still have in common is that we give way to much credit to people who clearly don't deserve it.1.

1. I would like to thank Ross Lincoln's brain, who deserves credit for this line.

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