You could launch into a world of words to describe Johnny Marr. But there is no need, as his legendary status was already secure the moment he started The Smiths. Times change from those heady hey days, and now on his third solo album, Call The Comet, Marr entertained the troops at the Roundhouse in Camden on Sunday 11th November. And the crowd were in for a real treat.
A sold out crowd at the Roundhouse greets Marr and the band – James Doviak, Iwan Gronow and Jack Mitchell – before they blast into the first song of the evening, The Tracers. A real humdinger of an opening song, which sets the mood perfectly. And it doesn’t hold back on the woo-woos either. The first of the set of Smiths songs of the night then follows with Bigmouth Strikes Again. And not a person in the crowd doesn’t know this song, their smiles say it all as Marr gives off a masterclass of yesteryear with this classic. It’s then back to the new sound of Marr with Jeopardy. And it’s the b-side to Hi Hello, and has a real rock sound with a signature riff that gets the members of the crowd new to it loving every note.
“Nice to see you!”, proclaims Marr to his followers before the new songs continue with, “a song about obsession”, in the form of Day In Day Out. These new numbers have gotten Marr an even bigger following, and this song is one of the best live songs he has in his vast reportoire. The newer numbers don’t stop there either, with Marr and the band going straight into New Dominions and the brilliant Hi, Hello. If the latter of the two had been released 30+ years ago, it still would’ve sounded as good now as it would’ve done then. The fans get well and truly blessed musically with every gig Marr does.
The Headmaster Ritual is the next Smiths number to get the crowd jumping and dancing once again, and the band certainly do this song justice with Doviak, Gronow and Mitchell really making the songs that were associated with Marr, before they teamed up with him, into their own. A talented bunch of fellas. They then follow that with another number from Call The Comet in the shape of Walk Into The Sea. I called that song one of the stand out tracks on the album, and you really do fully appreciate the song when you hear it live. They certainly didn’t let anyone down with this.
“A disco song from Manchester, England, Europe”, Marr tells the crowd before heading into the Electronic back catalogue with Getting Away With It. Still sounding as good as it back in the early 90’s, with an extended guitar solo thrown in for good measure. “Cheers! That’s a good one!”, enthuses Marr before they come right back up to date with Hey Angel. Every single person in the crowd really enjoying every moment as much as the band.
More from The Smiths back catalogue comes next with Last Night I Dream’t That Somebody Loved Me. And it’s the impressive multi tasking of James Doviak that caught the eye in this one. Jack Mitchell looked so comfortable on the drums and Iwan Gronow never missed a note on the bass, but Doviak showed why he is a great musician, and one that would fit into any band straight away. You’re a lucky man to have these guys, Johnny! They then go back to Call The Comet for arguably one of the songs of the album, and of the evening, Spiral Cities. An absolute treat of a song, and one the best Marr has written.
“Has anyone got any requests?”, enquires Marr before he gives a very short medley of Hotel California by The Eagles (“I’m not singing that, that’s definitely not one of my songs”), Fly Like An Eagle by Steve Miller before really teasing the crowd with the chords to This Charming Man. “I know it, I’m just fucking with ya!”, before he points to one crowd member and with great joy, he shouts, “Get The Message? Released on Factory Records in 1991? Sure, I can do that!”. Get The Message, another Electronic classic, certainly gets the attention of everyone as once again, the memories and the dance moves of those who remember 1991 come flooding back. “You better be texting the words ‘that was awesome’. Because it fucking was!”, is the analysis of Marr. And to keep the crowd in dancing mood, the highly addictive Easy Money follows that to a great reception.
“Still doing alright? Just checking, right?”, wonders Marr. They do even better when he introduces a special guest. And not just any old special guest, it’s Matt Johnson from The The. THE Matt Johnson, on stage with Johnny Marr once again for the first time in 25 years. A cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful classic, Summer In The City, is what the duo vocally treat us to, and it may only have been for one song, but the crowd will remember this occasion for a very very long time. Johnson leaves the stage to rapturous applause, before How Soon Is Now? takes the roof off the Roundhouse, before the band go off for a short break.
Encore time is upon us, and Rise starts off the four song closing set with so many people now in delirium after the first hour and a bit of the show. “You still dancing with me? We still dance in Manchester!”, remarks Marr before he dedicates Bug to, “Our friend in Washington, D.C”. Wonder who he is talking about, eh? A very vocal Marr then declares, “Here we go, make sure those things are charged!”, before they go into one of the essential songs in music, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. The terrace chanting of the chorus from the audience makes you glad you are alive, as they belted it out with every breath they had. The show comes to a close with another Smiths classic in the shape of You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby. Everyone goes home happy. Very happy, in fact.
Johnny Marr doesn’t need to be justified as a musician, he is one of the best this country has ever produced. His solo shows certainly don’t need justifying either, as they continue to impress with every album that comes out. And, dare I say it, it dampens the need for a full Smiths reunion. As long as Johnny Marr continues to wow the crowds with shows like this, there won’t be any need for any reunions at all. Well, maybe one with The The and Electronic. A Marr-vellous night.