Thursday, January 9, 2014


The Corner Hotel, 04/01/2014

Lanky hair framing his impish grin, Dean Whitby opens tonight's show with a blast of local charisma. Playing his first gig without usual accompanying band Drunk Mums, Whitby has a nice line in chunky garage rock, with big dirty chords and a Paul Kelly-esque speak-singing delivery. Songs are largely unadorned with melody or dynamics and suffer from sameiness without his band, but his self-deprecating humour wins the crowd over; it’s hard to dislike a man who names his guitars Gumby and Pokey.

After a lengthy break during which the crowd stares at a red velvet curtain and makes earnest conversation, lights lower and the curtain parts. Johnny Marr and his three-piece band stride confidently onstage and blast into The Right Thing Right, the opening track from 2013’s The Messenger. Impeccably dressed in a crushed velvet suit smattered with badges, Marr exuberantly prowls the stage. His silver nail-polished fingers run over his white, low-slung Fender Jaguar with trademark fluidity. 

The opening minutes remind you that now, of all times in recent decades, Marr is at the top of his game. Brimming with confidence, making irreverent asides and playing track after track of arresting songs, you could almost forget he has one of the finest back catalogues in music history to draw from. Songs from The Messenger gives the set its drive and thrust – energy that Marr and the band have no difficulty augmenting live – but the Smiths songs bring the euphoric bonding that elevates this show to being something truly distinctive.

Second song, Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before sees the crowd explode with pinch-me-I’m-dreaming glee. “How many of you here have bought the new album?” he asks mid-way through the set to loud cheers. “You lyin’ bastards!”
Album track Upstarts and a searing version of Lockdown follows as the crowd begin to see Marr as not a godlike figurehead of their youth, but a regular geezer you could chat to in a bar and so questions, declarations of affection and requests pepper the breaks between songs. Smiths’ songs like Bigmouth Strikes Again and Panic are reborn with the effusive bravado that makes Marr’s more recent Word Starts Attack and I Want the Heartbeat late set highlights. 

The set-closing How Soon is Now excites us all enough to call him back for an encore that features not only a reverent I Fought the Law and a tender, Rowland S. Howard-dedicated There is a Light That Never Goes Out, but a surprise take on Electronic’s Getting Away With It. Proving himself up to taking on both Morrissey AND Neil Tennant is no mean feat, but then he is, as the t-shirts at the merch table scream in red-on-black bold type, “Johnny Fuckin’ Marr”.

No comments:

Post a Comment