Johnny Marr At The Olympia Theatre – Photos And Review
The word ‘genius’ is thrown about an awful lot these days, isn’t it? It makes it hard to wade through the sea of pretentiousness and identify the real icons. Naturally, a visit from one of the best songwriters of all time is surely appreciated. Johnny Marr arguably provided the soundtrack to a generation of misfits under a glum Thatcher era Britain over thirty years ago. Pairing with the outlandish frontman, Morrissey, they created some of the freshest and most pure pop music the world had ever seen. Having collaborated with the likes of Bernard Sumner, Modest Mouse and even The Cribs ever since, Marr boasts a staggering back catalogue of music that we can only hope to get a slice of tonight.
Emerging onstage to a borderline crazed crowd, the man simply exudes attitude. ‘Playland’ opens the set with a huge drum intro and that oh so familiar jangly guitar tone. Marr’s low slung guitar just sings with seemingly no effort at all. Leading straight into classic Smiths number, ‘Panic’, the audience are thrilled to be treated to such a gem so early. Sounding as good as Morrissey ever did, the band are flawless. There is a nostalgia factor to the old tunes, but the show is kept cutting edge with a handful of more than impressive new ones. The catchy coda of ‘Candidate’ and the rocking riffs of ‘Easy Money’ prove that Marr is by no means stuck in the past.
Another oldie comes in the form of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, which again evokes a momental screech of joy from the crowd. It’s unknown if Marr only recently learned to sing this well or if he always had the talent, but in any case he has wowed us significantly. A thousand extra vocalists chime in for the huge chorus, and a big finish only vamps up the energy even more. The brand new ‘Spiral Cities’ again reminds us that his current work holds up strongly against the classics, with a refreshingly modern take on his timeless chiming guitar tone.
Raising the volume considerably now, back to back performances of The Electronics’ ‘Getting Away With It’ and the Smiths’ ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ drive the crowd berserk. Unlike former bandmate, Morrissey, Johnny Marr knows how to work a crowd. His charming yet cheeky demeanour and generous number of crowd pleasers are a magic formula tonight, and has the congregation eating from his hand.
Now quickly becoming an apparent ‘I was there’ gig, Marr closes the main set with what is possibly the best pop song ever written, ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’. Many now visibly emotional, this performance alone cements this night as a magical one. The airy chime of the synthesised strings flow beautifully with that unforgettable chord progression, and the delicate vocals on top are delivered perfectly.
Had Marr chosen to leave it there, not a soul could complain. Yet, we are somehow treated to more. Three final knockout tunes are in store in the form of ‘You Just Haven’t Earned it Yet Baby’, a cover of The Primatives’ ‘Crash’ and finally, the otherworldly ‘How Soon is Now’, the latter being a lesson in how to make a guitar sound like it’s from space. The final hurrah has the Olympia turned into a sweat box, with all singing just about every line back to the man.
Packing near twenty powerhouse performances into an hour and a half, not one in attendance is left without feeling astonished. We have witnessed a legend, and like his merchandise says, his name is Johnny Fuckin’ Marr.
Review by Finn O’Reilly
Photos by David Doyle