During the late 70s Claire Lockwood got her older brother Johnny Marr hooked on Nile Rodgers and Chic. Naturally he was more into guitar music, whereas she liked disco as well. It would have been impossible to predict the impact it was going to have when she introduced him to Chic’s debut from 1977, and the whole idea continues to shape and inspire his life and career in music.
The natural gift for melodic writing and the ability to express emotion in his guitar playing made Marr one of the most admired and respected guitar players, and he has collaborated with a diverse range of artists. Both Marr and Rodgers share the ease of working with others on projects. The friendship between them is one for life, “Some people I respect, and some I love with all my heart”, says Rodgers as he introduces his guest onstage.
The concept of combining complete mastery and allowing enough space for immersion has seen the guitarist build and develop his live shows over the past few years. Tonight’s show is an example of how slick and flawless they have become. The sharp, sparkling lighting design supports the quality of each song, it changes drastically as the mesmeric set unfolds. The set is a display of coherence, ability, body and soul.
Marr’s decision to start with the dramatic vibe of ‘The Tracers’ and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ works, it sets the energy and pace, and makes everybody get up from their seats.
Whilst Marr doesn’t play his new single ‘The Bright Parade’, ‘Armatopia’ is up next. The song has become an integral part of everything, and it is impossible to tell that it is a fairly recent release. Next up is a gorgeous delivery of ‘Day In Day Out’, the Depeche Mode-like ‘New Dominions’ and the infectious simplicity of ‘Hi Hello’, a song Marr introduces as “Think about someone you really love. This song is for that person”.
The pace is then brought back up with ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby’, the atmospheric ‘Walk Into the Sea’, and Electronic’s much-loved ‘Getting Away with It’ and ‘Get The Message’.
The lightness of ‘Spiral Cities’ paves the way for ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I want’ and with enough time to surprise, his son Nile joins them on stage and the suitably polished disco sonics of A Certain Ratio’s ‘Shack Up’ is one of several highlights this evening.
This is followed by more Smiths as ‘This Charming Man’ concludes the set together with ‘Easy Money’ and an epic delivery of ‘How Soon Is Now’. The icing on the cake is the encore consisting of ‘Rise’, ‘Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me’, a song that sees guitarist James Doviak give an intricate keyboard solo, as well as the classic beauty and wise words of ‘There Is A Light that Never Goes Out’.
More than thirty years on, the inclination to refer back to The Smiths’ catalogue seems more frequent and attractive than ever, and although the pattern of having to answer the Smiths reunion question in interviews is most likely to be one of annoyance for Marr, it isn’t hard to understand why the fascination is permanent.
It is special to witness a Johnny Marr moment such as tonight. He seems to shows no signs of drying up or reaching a final peak, leaving much space for his creativity, energy and originality to flow, and there is such a continuing demand for it.
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Words: Susan Hansen
Photo Credit: Aldo Lloren
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