Johnny Hallyday at The Royal Albert Hall, Tuesday 16thOctober 2012
Every French person in South Kensington was excited to learn that Johnny Hallyday, the only rock star France has ever produced, was performing for the first time in England.
Amandine Bourgeois’s warm up act was great. We were treated to one of the best looking, French, high heeled, blonde, husky voiced white power house female leather clad singers that I have heard in years.
Afterwards, one of my three female quests said that she sang wonderfully and looked sexy, but we all agreed that she knew that this was part of her act. Look out for her.
And then this French legendary rocker, the man the French simply call Johnny, walked down from the back of the set at The Royal Albert Hall, to thunderous applause, spot lights on him, clad as always in black, this man, this Johnny.
This was a stunning show, with great, imaginative lighting flashing around The Hall and wonderful sound.
He ripped into his classic songs with tremendous verve and enthusiasm, supported by his great large long term band.
Almost everything was in French, when he talked to us, the songs, the singers - and the audience.
It felt, looked and sounded as though a little bit of France had been transported, as if by magic, to Kensington Gore, The Royal Albert Hall, London.
I speak fluent French, so I understood what he said between songs.
It was a great French Johnny Hallyday Old Style Rock and Roll evening – but it never seemed to go much further than this.
There was no variation in his high powered vocal delivery.
He just sang in his current French Fog Horn rocker style.
To his credit, he did let his three female backing singers come up front to belt out a blues number. And they were very good.
If you listen to his much earlier recordings, particularly from the early 60s, you will discover a young man with a voice rich in wonderful variations in pitch and tone.
This was an evening of great French rock and roll - except that it lacked any variation or character. It was all a bit samey.
The mostly French audience loved it. So not much wrong with that then.
Johnny Hallyday’s latest album “Ca Ne Finira Jamais” – “It Never Ends” is out on Warner Music France and you can download it now.
By Richard Franklin