Gig review: JOHNNY HATES JAZZ – Darwen Library Theatre, Lancs, 4 March 2016

In this hour long special, first broadcast as part of his weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, David Randall chatted to Clark Datchler with tracks from Johnny Hates Jazz past and present, plus a special acoustic version of ‘Turn Back The Clock’.

JOHNNY HATES JAZZ - Darwen Library Theatre, 4 March 2016

Who would have thought it?  One of the more interesting bands of the eighties, some 30 years on, in one of the smallest, most perfectly formed, theatres south of Blackburn?  Turn back the clock, and in the band’s halcyon years, they never actually toured.  When frontman and chief songwriter Clark Datchler left early in 1988 the adventure was all but over.  Several hit singles and a No.1 album had elevated them for a brief period at the turn of the decade.  A second album followed in 1992 – ‘Tall Stories’ – but it was never quite the same again.

Fast forward to 2009 and Clark, his long term musical partner Mike Nocito and Calvin Hayes, reconvened for a series of festival dates; Hayes subsequently withdrew before the recording of their current album ‘Magnetized’ in 2013.  Datchler then contracted a life threatening illness and best laid comeback plans were put on hold.

JOHNNY HATES JAZZ - Darwen Library Theatre, 4 March 2016

Now, several years on, on the back of an 80s package gig in Minehead, Datchler and Nocito fashioned a low-key tour to kick start the band’s stop-start momentum.  ‘Magnetized’- the album and single -  received much attention and airplay and any gig would inevitably major on the album highlights and a best of the early stuff.

What a gig.  Arguably sounding better than they ever would have done in 1988, JHJ even dropped in a never released song ‘Broken Spirit’ to offer a tantalising glimpse of what might have been.  And as frontman Datchler added with a certain irony  – Nocito may well have been a judge on “X Factor” and he might have been a contestant.

JOHNNY HATES JAZZ - Darwen Library Theatre, 4 March 2016

But, really, that was the whole point of this gig.  A re-statement that you can’t beat proper talent, a damn good tune, cleverly re-imagined, a song with resonance, and an engaging frontman.  Clark kept us updated throughout, offering little insights to the world of JHJ and to another that’s gone mad.

With a band that included album renegades Berenice Scott (providing the necessary keyboard pizazz and backing vocals) Alex Reeves (drums) and with Nocito playing bass it was like they’d never been away.  Blues rocker Marcus Bonfanti was perhaps the biggest surprise in the line-up on guitar and, if he didn’t actually fit the band’s clean cut image, he compensated with some deft rhythm playing.

JOHNNY HATES JAZZ - Darwen Library Theatre, 4 March 2016

JOHNNY HATES JAZZ - Darwen Library Theatre, 4 March 2016

There was always a certain soulfulness and musicality in the band that enabled them to transcend their era and Datchler commanded his audience from the start, reminding us that the band’s early lyrical content still remains relevant.

With a good blend of the old and new, I never thought in my lifetime I would hear an authentic live version of ‘Don’t Say It’s Love’ (the band’s minor hit from 1988 and sometimes overlooked) whilst the song ‘Magnetized’ was simply magnificient.

Finishing with a tremendous ‘Shattered Dreams’, we were reminded that the eighties can still be cool.  Like Love & Money before them (another band who transcended their era and fizzled out too soon and who reformed for some superb gigs in 2011) Johnny Hates Jazz demonstrated tonight that their audience’s unwavering faith is fully justified.  Absolutely life affirming.

Setlist: Heart Of Gold/Broken Spirit/Listen/Magnetized/Turn Back The Clock/You Belong To You/Don’t Let It End This Way/I Don’t Want To Be A Hero/The Man With No Name/Me And My Foolish Heart/Don’t Say It’s Love Encore: Shattered Dreams

Review and photos by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

JOHNNY HATES JAZZ - Darwen Library Theatre, 4 March 2016

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 June 2022.

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