March 18th, 2013
Even as I walked through the doors, the age range of the gathering crowd in The Leadmill gave me reason to believe that we were about to enjoy a rare evening in the company of greatness; the expectation was Johnny Marr playing his solo album and a selection of his favourite songs from his past.
The reality was just that, but way more. The set was, on the whole, a muscular blast through his new album, The Messenger, as you might expect, but the experience was far better than that.
From the moment Marr arrived on stage clutching his new signature Fender Jaguar, which he perfected during his most recent ‘previous life’ as Johnny Jarman both in the studio and on the road with The Cribs, to the moment he finally left it he held the crowd in the palm of his hand. Captivated by a display of confidence, charm and virtuosity we were spellbound. I hope the smoke machine was placed behind his amps on purpose, because it gave exactly the right backdrop to the set; it was sizzling!
Opener The Right Thing Right set a high standard that was maintained right through to the final farewell of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. The new songs sound better live than on the record; it is as if they were written to be played live for you.
Now, this is where things could get awkward because a few songs in he asked about the long-closed Limit Club on
West Street, a place he used to travel
to hang out in. This reminiscence was followed by the first of the four songs
from The Smiths era that included, Bigmouth
Strikes Again. This was obviously well received, but- and thankfully there
is a but- the younger members of the crowd were here for Johnny, not Johnny
from The Smiths and there followed an equally enthusiastic response for Upstarts! and Generate, Generate.
What Marr actually delivered was a clear statement that the present is more important to him than the past and he seems keen to remind us that he was in other bands too, by including the pick of Electronic songs too; tellingly, Bernard Sumner is the only previous band mate to be name checked this evening and I for one am glad.
For too long, the myth of Marr as Guitar for Hire, or Marr as the one who anointed Noel Gallagher’s rise to fame has got in the way of a wider appreciation of the ability, talent and sheer presence the man has. I imagine he is used to setting a place for the ghost at the banquet by now, but I for one wish people would leave it alone, stop using the S word every time they mention him and just enjoy the here and now!
Yes, it was great to see him and his band- and what a band he has put together- rattle the roof with London and deliver How Soon Is Now as if it wasn’t nearly 30 years old; but it was equally brilliant to hear his NME Awards cover of I Fought The Law because basically it was a treat to hear him play anything and everything!