Johnny Marr at The Academy (review & photos)
Only a third of the way into 2013, this year has already proved itself to be filled with comebacks. Some considerably more successful than others, it was ex-Smiths legendary guitarist Johnny Marr’s turn to return to the stage. This time around, he resurges with a brand new album and a new position as frontman.
Playing a sold out show at Dublin’s The Academy, Marr takes to the stage flanked by previous members of his former musical projects the Healers and Haven, each in blazers and skinnies, dapper and ready to get down to serious business. Even in his opening song, Marr makes it clear that he can dominate as the front man that he could have been all those years ago. Quick to dip into his impressive back catalogue, Johnny Marr turns to “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One before” from the Smiths 1987 album, “Strangeways, Here We Come” as quickly as his second song. As expected the crowd erupts, gaining a significantly louder reaction than his opening number.
Having received NME’s Godlike Genius award and being welcomed so admiringly by a legion of ardent Smith’s fans on his solo tour, it would be expected of Johnny Marr to come to the stage with some sense of ego. Despite his highly regarded status, Marr shows no sense of ego on stage tonight. Losing himself in the songs, he seems to gain all the gratification he needs from the fans reactions to the music. He shows the humility that Morrissey lacked.
The songs from his debut solo album “The Messenger” are delivered with a sense of enthusiasm and energy, that majority of this years attempted comebacks have lacked. The impact of Johnny’s infamous guitar solos is greatly heightened on a live stage in comparison to The Messenger album. With each solo from the guitar virtuoso, a selection of older aged men who fill the crowd lose their sense of cool and a sea of their outstretched hands screaming and shouting for Johnny leave you in no doubt that you are in the presence of a musical maestro. A sense of respect for this man, even without his sidekick, is evident in the room with two audiences members bestowing gifts upon the front man during gaps in the set.
He throws in a song from his Electronic era for good measure and continues on with a string of hits from his Smiths back catalogue. The Messenger title track proves itself as the best received of his solo hits all night and as time goes on, it becomes evident that his new music plays to the strengths of his voice, light and lacking the detached echoes of Morrissey. While he does no disservice to his back catalogue, Marr lacks the melancholic tones of Morrissey and there’s something odd about a man who appears so understated and relaxed singing “I am human and I need to be loved…”.
Johnny Marr temporarily leaves the stage, returning to chants of his name for what turns out to be a five song long encore. The band enter straight into a cover of “I Fought The Law”, following which Johnny removes his fitted blazer jacket to reveal a sweatshirt given to him earlier that night by a fan. The burstingly packed venue join in for a Smiths classic chanting “To die by your side, is such a heavenly way to die”. With a final raise of his signature white Fender Jaguar over his head, Marr thanks the audience, taking time to shake the hands of adoring front row fans before leaving the stage.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind by the end of this set, that Marr is a legend in his own right, not needing Morrissey by his side to dominate a stage and the humility and grace he displays gains him the a sense of respect and adoration from his fans that many artists never achieve. Johnny Marr’s album “The Messenger” is available to buy now, and should you ever have the chance to see this guitar virtuoso play live, then know it is a chance not to be missed.
Review by Laur Ryan
Photos by David Doyle Photography