May 6, 2019
Johnny Marr first achieved fame as the guitarist and co-songwriter (with Morrissey) of the Smiths. The Manchester band has been described as being one of the most important bands to emerge from the British music scene of the ‘80s. Marr's jangly pop guitar style, along with Morrissey’s distinctive vocals, helped the Smiths achieve critical acclaim and popular success during its short career. The band, unfortunately, disbanded in 1987 due to philosophical differences between Marr and Morrissey. Since that time, Marr has soldiered on as a solo artist and as a member of the Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse and the Cribs. He has provided his guitar virtuosity to recording by the The Talking Heads, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Crowded House, Pet Shop Boys, Bryan Ferry, Hans Zimmer, Beck, Pearl Jam, Oasis and many others.
His first solo album, titled The Messenger (Warner Brothers Records) was released in 2013. Playland (New Voodoo/Warner Brothers Records), followed in 2014. Set the Boy Free, his autobiography, was released to rave reviews by Dey Street Books in 2016. His latest studio album, Call the Comet (New Voodoo/Warner Brothers Records), was released in 2018.
On a pleasant early May evening, Marr and his band touched down in Huntington, NY for his latest stop of the Call the Comet Tour. As is the custom on this tour, Marr kicked things off with “The Tracers” which was the lead single from the Call the Comet CD. The song was well-received, but on the second tune of the evening, “Big Mouth Strikes Again,” the audience members lost their collective minds. The Smith’s anthem was greeted with loud cheers, bouncing, bopping and, of course, singing. As soon as Marr played the first notes the tune, members of the crowd were heard screeching that if they “weren’t able see the Smiths (or Morrissey who was appearing on Broadway on this particular evening), this was the best thing.”
During the main set the band delivered pitch and note-perfect versions of a number of songs from Call the Comet including “Day In Day Out,” “New Dominions,” “Hi Hello, “Walk Into The Sea,” “Hey Angel” and “Spiral Cities.” Marr also delivered a fantastic version of his recently released non-album single “Armatopia.” He visited other albums his solo canon (including the infectious “Easy Money” and “Boys Get Straight” (both of which were originally released on Playland), more Smiths songs than one could have hoped for, including: “The Headmaster Ritual,” “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me” and the main set closer “How Soon is Now?” and his Electronic days with that band’s biggest hit, “Getting Away With It” as well as “Get The Message.” The four song encore featured “Rise” and “Bug” from Call The Comet followed by the iconic Smiths’ tunes “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” and show ending “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby.”
After seeing Johnny Marr play The Smiths’ classics as well as his solo songs, I don’t need to see Morrissey. Though I still like Morrissey’s music, I do not like his penchant for cancelling performances and his demands for control over venues’ food vendors forcing them to sell only vegan offerings. Johnny Mar is the real deal. He was the heart and soul of the Smiths. That said, a reunion tour would be nice and very much welcomed.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon