Johnny Marr at Leopardstown, Dublin – Review & Photos
He’s so good. He’s just so damned good it’s sickening! Not content with being one of the greatest practitioners of the guitar arts that the world has ever seen, Johnny Marr has effortlessly made the transition to incredibly talented and engaging frontman without any drop in the quality of his playing. It’s enough to make those of us who can barely sing and strum Wonderwall at the same time want to chop up our cheap acoustic guitars and use them as kindling. Oh and just to top it off, he looks effortlessly cool too.
Arriving on to the Leopardstown stage in a pink shirt, jacket and black skinny jeans, Marr looked dapper and considerably younger than his 50 years (quite the endorsement of the teetotal, vegan lifestyle that he leads). What followed was a career retrospective and a glimpse in to the future as Johnny played a nice variety of recent solo material and songs from his glittering musical past.
It was noticeable that the crowd responded just as favourably to material from 2012’s The Messanger as they did to the plethora of Smiths songs that dotted the set. The opener Upstarts was as well received as Panic that followed it and this set the tone for the evening, with Marr in great form throughout the night as he prowled the stage, effortlessly bashing out those familiar riffs that only he can properly produce. On the likes of the “old folk song from Manchester,” Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before he even managed to reproduce some Morrissey-style growls.
The dreamy, languid riffs of The Messanger gave way to extended solos in the middle of the song while New Town Velocity is a beautiful song that recalls youthful hopes and dreams and sounds incredible when played live. Elsewhere, the spiky Generate! Generate! is full of meandering riffs that explode in to life and there was a sneak peak of what’s to come on the new album Playland, with Marr playing two tracks from that album.
Easy Money, a title that Marr wryly quips at the end of the song may have “Jay-Z shitting himself,” has a fairly simple melody that drifts over some impressive guitar and keyboard licks, while Candidate is built on some spooky, 60’s style guitar lines. While neither differ too much sonically from what was on offer from the last album, both are fine tunes and bode well for Playland’s release in October.
Although he’s a restless musical soul who always seems to be looking to the next new project, it’s refreshing that Marr doesn’t shy away from his past and is happy to play the songs that initially brought him fame. The crowd went wild as he hammered out those shredded chords in the middle of Bigmouth Strikes Again and enthusiastically clapped along during the extended intro that heralded what was perhaps a surprising highlight of the show, Electronic’s Getting Away With It. With Marr banging out the original synth lines on the fretboard before wandering down towards the crowd and knocking out what seemed to be some incredible, improvised lines, it was a masterclass and a pleasure to behold.
After some shout outs to his relatives from Kildare, Johnny dedicated the closing song of the main set to all of those in attendance on the night. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is a beautiful song and Marr does a fine job of singing it while working the crowd brilliantly, with the musical backing going silent, letting the crowd sing the refrain back at the stage, before the band kicked back in and finished with a flourish.
The crowd were still singing that refrain when Marr emerged for an encore that he kicked off with just him and his gently strummed guitar as the band slowly returned to help him out on Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. Of all of the Smiths songs on show tonight, this one was the one that probably suited Marr’s voice the best and it made for a fine rendition.
A rousing version of Lockdown was followed by Marr roaring the word ‘adrenaline’ over and over again before kicking in to a blistering version of I Fought The Law, throwing shapes all over the stage while he perfectly reproduced those famous licks.
It was fitting that the night ended with what is maybe Marr’s most famous guitar line – the other-worldly How Soon Is Now. Many have tried to reproduce the sound of this record but only the Master can pull it off, while every member of the crowd sung the words back with arms aloft as Marr tuned and detuned his strings, producing some warped, cosmic sounds before holding his guitar above his head at the end as a final salute to the adoring crowd.
And then he was off, probably to write a novel that will usurp Ulysses and invent a car engine that runs on rainwater. The talented bastard.
Review by Mark O’Brien
Photos by Tudor Marian