Johnny Marr rolled into Glasgow a few weeks back in support of his Playland album. He’s had a triumphant couple of weeks since its release including Noel Gallagher joining him on stage at the Brixton Academy.
Marr has been one of the indie world’s greatest icons primarily as the man who put tunes to Morrissey’s lyrics in The Smiths, a band that has lasted and will last the test of time. Since he left The Smiths in 1987, Marr has been involved in various guises with bands such as The The, The Cribs, Modest Mouse and with Mancunian supergroup, Electronic. The latter he formed with fellow Manc legend Bernard Sumner of New Order/Joy Division fame.
Until recently he was happy to be the one to the side of the lead singer but has stepped up to the plate with a bang; as the crowd at the O2 Academy will agree. Following the excellent support group, Childhood, Marr walked out to a rapturous reception and charged into the title track from his new top 10 album, Playland. The reverb had barely settled at the end of the tune when he launched into ‘Panic’, one of the most loved of all The Smiths catalogue, to the acclaim of the sold out crowd.
For the next hour, Marr mixed his solo material including recent hit ‘Easy Money’, as well as many of The Smiths favourites such as ‘The Headmasters Ritual’, ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, and ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’.
The only glitch in the show was during his rendition of Electronic’s ‘Getting Away With It’, a problem developed with his guitar and the guitar-tech whipped it from him to fix. Marr stood behind the mic, and tried to sing the song sans guitar, but it was clear he wasn’t happy and he ran off stage to where the spare guitars were racked, and grabbed his green Fender which he had played most of the show with, and carried on with the song, with the desperate tech lying in his wake!
He was clearly enjoying himself and shared some banter with the Glasgow crowd, telling the story of how he was asked if he reminisced about the 80’s music, and sarcastically answered “Yeah, Spandau Ballet and Fine Young Cannibals”. When this raised a laugh he turned and asked “Oh, you like the Ballet? I see you with your beards, nodding along to The Ballet”!
But it was back to business soon, and after a mesmerizing version of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, Johnny and his superb band left the stage to thunderous applause.
During the break, Johnny’s light display started scrolling “Johnny F***in’ Marr”, which was soon chanted to the notorious “Here we, Here we…”chant that is usually met with cringes from the fringes of the audience at Scottish gigs. However with Johnny encouraging it (and his Tech Crew bearing the slogan “Johnny F***in’ Marr’s F***ing Road Crew” on their t-Shirts, even the most reserved gig goer joined in!
Marr re-appeared and he thanked us for waiting by re-opening with one of The Smith’s earliest releases, ‘Still Ill’. This was quickly followed by ‘Dynamo’, which in this writer’s opinion is the finest song from Playland.
To close, Marr covered Iggy Pop’s classic ‘Lust For Life’, and made us all dance like hypnotised chickens, before the finale of ‘How Soon Is Now’. The song is considered to be the finest of The Smiths work, and Marr’s guitar work on the song is lauded from far and wide. Live it loses absolutely none of its impact. Marr was re-tuning his guitar mid-song, to change from the gritty riff of the opening section of the song, to the familiar jingle in the middle section – and he done this seamlessly – we were genuinely watching a master at work.
Overall, it was a privilege to see one of my heroes up close and personal and playing the songs of my life to perfection. Marr had the audience in the palm of his hand and was never in danger of letting go. Needless to say, I have had worse Monday nights!