The crowd ambling in is likely the most age-varied that Glasgow’s stagnant-aired Barrowland Ballroom gets. Everyone, from teenagers and students, to ‘dad rockers’ dragging along their family members is represented in the dingy hall. This variety is telling of the timelessness associated with the man they are here to see, and the profound dent he has made in the fabric of popular music culture. “I really hope we hear some Smiths’ songs”, the plooky youths say, whilst the balding heads amongst them are reminiscing about the last time they saw him play in the late 1980s.
With Johnny Marr’s legendary past, it’s easy to overlook some his most recent achievements. Since the early ‘90s, Marr has had numerous solo projects, countless collaborations with other bands, and even performance credits on major film soundtracks. His talents are certainly wide-ranging, and the crowd expect nothing short of magic on this special night.
Magic is exactly what Marr comes to deliver, choosing to start the gig with ‘The Tracers’ from his latest album. The pounding bassline and grungy vocal undertones offer an excellent, if a bit of a jarring introduction to the gig. Then, an instantaneous switch into The Smiths’ classic ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ dishes out waves of crowd-pleasing excitement, before he launches into the hard power-rock tune ‘Jeopardy’.
This triplet is immensely striking. Marr is shouting: “I’m here, and I’ve still got this!”.
The music is focused and high-energy throughout the night; Marr knows how to balance his newer bangers with the classics. His stage presence completes the picture and is exactly of the standard you would expect of such a veteran. He will go from strutting around the stage smiling at audience members whilst throwing down little dances, to striking various Rock-God poses with his guitar. It is joyous to see someone be so passionate about the performance they give, especially when they have been around the circuit as long as Marr.
One of the most unexpected moments of the evening comes when Marr asks the audience for song requests. He immediately takes up one woman’s suggestion of ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ by Kylie Minogue, apparently having a fantastic time as he grooves like a drunk uncle at a wedding during the whole number. Afterwards, he jokes: “I can’t believe I know all the words to Kylie’s song, but not a single note of ‘This Charming Man’”. The audience are astounded when he busts through the famous opening riff of ‘This Charming Man’, before abruptly stopping, never to revisit the song again.
This moment encapsulates the concert. Although we have heard many of The Smiths’ big hits throughout, Marr clearly doesn’t want to be constantly pinned down by his old band’s successes.
He’s proud of all his new work and wants to show off what he has to offer as an aged artist. The Mozart of catchy guitar riffs displays his wealth of expertise and, quite simply, puts on one hell of a show.
Image: Raph_PH via flickr