Governor Hindmarsh, Tue 21 July
After postponing his planned January tour, Johnny Marr has delivered on his commitment and arrived in Australia for four shows spanning the country. It is a cold, wet and pretty miserable Adelaide night outside; Morrissey would love it, but he’s not here. The almost-full house at the Governor Hindmarsh is here, to see Johnny Marr.
Many folks know Marr specifically from his time in The Smiths, regularly cited as one of England’s most influential bands. But there are scores of people who were so affected and impressed by The Smiths, and particularly Marr’s guitar work, that they have followed his career passionately ever since. While it is probable that just about all of tonight’s crowd have one foot in the former camp, many have steadfastly placed their other foot in the latter.
Marr and his band begin with the title track of the newest album, Playland. This shows the faith he has with his contemporary work, and the audience doesn’t disagree. It is immediately followed up with Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, from The Smiths’ 1987 LP Strangeways, Here We Come, and a forthcoming finely-balanced set is anticipated.
Marr, a man of legendary good habits, slips off his jacket and stands before the crowd, all red shirt, black barnet and Fender Jaguar. He jokes about missing out on Tuesday night reality TV, and promises he’ll sing as quickly as possible so that people won’t miss The Kardashians.
Marr continues the set with a selection of songs from his two solo albums, punctuated with extremely well-executed versions of Smiths’ classics and a few well-placed covers. The Right Thing Right and Easy Money, from 2013’s The Messenger and Playland respectively, show listeners that if they aren’t into Marr’s solo work, then they ought to be. There’s a brand new song to digest, Spiral Cities, and this is followed by the punchy, upbeat Generate! Generate! which features a decent-sized solo, the first of a few. The volume appears to be rising. Bigmouth Strikes Again and Candidate add to the impetus.
Also included is the disco-pop Getting Away With It, a song recorded by Marr when he joined Bernard Sumner (New Order) and Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) in Electronic. Somehow it fits, and the audience is treated to another standout solo.
The set concludes with a lengthy, sing-along version of The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, and the audience would be quite happy singing the refrain until dawn. Marr bids us a fake farewell, before returning to the stage with an eclectic five-song encore that features the beautiful Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, the newish Dynamo, Depeche Mode’s swampy I Feel You (his 2015 Record Store Day release), a Clash-like version of I Fought The Law, before finishing up with the song people really want to hear. How Soon Is Now? is in danger of crumbling under the burden of expectation, but ultimately it provides the appropriate climax.
This guitar-driven band has delivered a stunning concert, free of any unnecessary pomp or excess while being chock-full of great songs and great performance. The energy and enthusiasm for the task has been laudable. With a final wave to the almost sated audience, Johnny Marr promises that he’ll see us next year. We can only hope that he does.
Image courtesy of www.johnny-marr.com