This is a review of Johnny Hi-Fi at Momo’s on Monday, March 27, 2006.
Johnny Hi-Fi had not performed in their hometown in more than five years. When they did return to play Momo's in Austin, Texas, the band filled the venue with a combination of familiar melodies and new material that fans soaked up eagerly. After opening with "If This Could Only Last" and "Out Of This World," the thumping drone of "Man Overboard" kicked the show into gear.
The rhythm section was crisp, deliberate, and polished. Years in New York City's music scene had transformed the band from their free-wheeling pop-rock mode throughout the '90s into a no-nonsense never-miss professional international touring machine.
Lead singer Eric Hsu sings convincingly songs based primarily on his own personal ups and downs. His Austin roots shined through on a high vocal intro to "You're Not For Sale," reminiscent of one of his influences, Johnny Goudie. But what brought the set to a fevered pitch was the band's popular ballad, "Lovesong on the Radio." The video received heavy rotation on MTV's Chinese offshoot, MTVChi, and garnered thousands of views on various websites.
All was not serious, however, as the upbeat-swing of "Natalie" began. This light-hearted dedication to actress Natalie Portman was inspired after she attended a show several years earlier. The light moment was followed by a clear fan favorite, "Passive Killer," a song seeming to be a bittersweet one of love and loss, but rumored to actually be about an episode of barbecue-induced food-poisoning.
This night was a hometown-specific show, reintroducing a band to friends and fans who had not seen Johnny Hi-Fi in nearly half a decade. The set list brought to life older songs that launched the band from Austin to New York City in 2000, but also introduced newer material that featured the group's new line-up. What was clear is that Johnny Hi-Fi need not go five years between visits home. What has brought about international appeal and multi-media success also pleased their long-time fans.