O2 Institute, Birmingham
Monday, November 5
WHILE fireworks whistled through the Bonfire Night sky outside, indie guitar supremo Johnny Marr sparkled on the O2 Institute stage with plenty of bangers to keep his partisan crowd gazing up at him and his trademark guitar style.
Exploding on to stage with The Tracers from new album Call The Comet, the ‘woo hoos’ reverberate enthusiastically in this intimate former church setting as he rockets quickly into Bigmouth Strikes Again, the first of a crowd-pleasingly high number of The Smiths classics.
Marr has long been the perennial cool collaborator since he split from Morrissey, Joyce and Rourke in 1987, naming The The, The Pretenders, Pet Shop Boys and even Hans Zimmer among his musical partners.
But, more than 30 years on from The Smiths, his diminutive frame fits firmly in the role of the frontman with Call The Comet – his third album as simply “Johnny Marr” – perfectly complemented both in style and talent by his regular band of Doviak, Iwan and Jack.
They continue with Day In Day Out and New Dominions before Hi Hello from his latest LP which has more than a hint of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out about it.
But this night was much more than a nostalgic nod to The Smiths.
Two big offerings are served up from Marr’s days with Electronic, his hit side project with Bernard Sumner from New Order (and occasionally PSB), where perhaps I and many of this crowd, having perhaps been too young at the time for The Smiths, most fondly remember him.
Getting Away With It and Get The Message are revamped for this tight four-piece and go down a storm.
Easy Money and Boys Get Straight from from second album Playland already feel like classics before we are treated to How Soon Is Now? where his guitar craftsmanship is a joy to behold.
It was disappointing there were no songs from his first solo LP The Messenger, likely to accommodate his latest album, as I felt that was a great debut but it was a solid set that didn’t fall flat at any point, even on a school night.
Last Night I Dreamt… was a highlight for me before a four-song encore concluded with two The Smiths classics – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby – are a rapturous finale from the man Mojo magazine label “arguably Britain’s last great guitar stylist”.
It’s a fine moniker for one of the coolest in the business. And on this evidence, baby has he earned it.
* Johnny’s tour continues across the UK. See johnnymarr.com for more.