In today’s music scene Johnny Jewel stands as a maestro of mesmerising soundscapes, weaving shimmering synth-pop, slick noir disco, and infectious dance-rock. Over two prolific decades, Jewel has steered influential bands like Glass Candy, Chromatics, and Desire. His artistic canvas extends beyond the realm of music, as he also scores films, most notably contributing to Nicolas Winding Refn‘s world with iconic soundtracks for Drive, Bronson, and Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, Lost River.
Thirsting for an uncharted auditory experience, Jewel has built his unmistakeable empire with ethereal foundations, reinforced with a fusion of nostalgia and futurism. His compositions, often sung by talented vocalists like Ida No and Ruth Radelet, transcend traditional genres that echo through cinematic landscapes. From the neon-lit synths that became his calling card, Jewel‘s artistry resonates in the delicate balance between the familiar and the unseen.
This introduction serves as a prelude to the enigmatic Johnny Jewel, whose impressive back catalogue now unfolds like a dream, where every note carries the weight of a storied career. We anticipate an auditory voyage guided by a visionary who views music not just as a vocation but as a necessity. Amidst the raw industrial allure of Salford, where history collides with the avant-garde, The White Hotel becomes the backdrop for Johnny Jewel’s sonic dreams—a place where music transcends boundaries, echoing with a brave and daring spirit that pushes the limits of sonic exploration.
The venue, named after DM Thomas’s provocative novel, unfolds across two rooms. Even the bar area, with its identical heads lying under a sewer-like grate, mirrors the anarchistic ethos that fuels The White Hotel’s operations. This venue is just about as alternative as you can get. Tonight, as the concrete dancefloor awaits the sonic wizardry of Johnny Jewel, The White Hotel stands as more than a venue; it’s a sonic haven in the heart of Salford, where every decibel is a rebellion against the ordinary.
Opening the evening was Jorja Chalmers, the latest addition to Johnny Jewel’s infamous Italians Do It Better record label. On only her second live solo performance the prominent saxophonist seamlessly fused traditional methods with subtle synths that quietly evoked the dancefloor for the audience. Among the crowd, a few mullet-grown, polo-neck-wearing members were evidently feeling the music, physically expressing their connection to the beats. Notably, Jewel himself was spotted filming some of the support act, positioned front and centre with the rest of the audience. Johnny Jewel‘s unwavering commitment to developing artists on his label was evident, showcasing a sense of community and family throughout the night.
Shortly after Jorja Chalmers wrapped up the opening set, Jewel swiftly took the stage. With his distinctive mod hairstyle and the expansive black tear dots on his face, Jewel unmistakably exhibits a penchant for avant-garde fashion. Adorned with an array of keyboards, synths, and computers, the solo artist wasted no time in presenting a mesmerising display of violent imagery, curating a journey through his past works and the artists on his record label, both past and present. Unsurprisingly, music cues from films like Drive, Bronson, and Lost River took centre stage, hitting harder with carefully curated montages of the films. A standout moment was the performance of Lady by Chromatics, a clear fan favourite, emphasising the enduring legacy of the now-disbanded group. Tracks from Glass Candy, such as Shell Game and Digital Versicolor, also punctuated the set.
Amidst these tracks were cues from Jewel‘s latest soundtrack, Holly, and compositions featured in Twin Peaks: The Return, providing iconic David Lynch imagery. A fitting comparison arose: if John Carpenter and David Lynch had a love child, it would be Johnny Jewel. This experimental show reached its climax with Jewel inquiring if there was time for more before playing the now-classic Under Your Spell from Desire.
As the final beat resonated, Jewel expressed gratitude for the audio-visual experiment that had been in the works for some time. The audience responded with a rapturous applause that continued for an extended period, prompting Jewel to immerse himself in the crowd, engaging with fans and graciously taking photos with them.
Having had some (excited) preconceived notions about the evening, the experience exceeded expectations. Credit is due to Johnny Jewel and the venue, as the night delivered a distinctly different and unforgettable performance—a rarity in the current musical landscape. Italians really do, do it better.