Live Review: Johnny Marr at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 9th November 2014

By on Tuesday, 11th November 2014 at 2:00 pm

Header photo by TGTF Head Photographer Martin Sharman at Deer Shed Festival 2014

Guitar god and all around musical legend Johnny Marr just released his second solo album ‘Playland’ in October. Despite his solo work that began earnestly in recent years and all of his work from 1987 on, playing in and contributing to numerous other bands’ art, the shadow of being in the Smiths, what made him a household name and still revered 30 years on, still follows him around. Luckily for the Smiths devoted, he has no problem returning to a treasure trove of a back catalogue that he himself had an integral part in creating. His show Sunday night at the 9:30 Club, the first date on a massive North American tour that does not let up until mid-December, proved that unlike many other artists of his age that don’t like particularly like returning to their roots, Marr can and will. And with the widest of grins too.

This is not to say that the entire set in DC was filled with retreads of another bygone era. Songs from both ‘Playland’ and its predecessor ‘The Messenger’ (though, oddly not the 2013 LP’s title track, which I was had been hoping for and expecting) were proffered to an eager audience. ‘Easy Money’, the radio-friendly hit from the new album that has been making the rounds, is appropriately loud, fast and guitar-jangly to cause mayhem. Same goes for ‘Boys Get Straight’, whose name you can have for a price on blue coloured t-shirts being sold at the merch stand: Marr himself models the shirt later on in the show. (You couldn’t ask for any better product placement.) Synths buzz to usher in ‘Back in the Box’ and spark it to life, resulting in another set standout.

The evening was not without surprises. Marr rolled out an astoundingly brilliant version of ‘Getting Away With It’, the single from late ’80s supergroup Electronic that he formed with New Order’s Bernard Sumner after he quit the Smiths (watch the two of them perform the song at Live at Jodrell Bank in 2013 in this previous Live Gig Video). And for a truly left field moment, a cover of ‘Lust for Life’ came roaring through the amps during the encore. It’s not if the Washington crowd Sunday night needed a psyching up moment, but I suppose in other markets where the audience assembled is less excited, this might be a moment to re-energise them. Initially when the heavy beats started, I honestly thought this might be one of Marr’s new songs that just happened to sound like the Iggy Pop song. Until he began to sing.

‘Dynamo’, the album’s third track and newest single, is saved for the encore, though its title could have easily doubled as Marr’s nickname for the evening: the man is like Gumby come to life. Jumping onto speakers and pointing to folks in the rafters, showboating with his guitar to pause every so often in a serious stance right in front of fans who look like they’re about to faint, pogoing up and down in place in his smart burgundy trainers while – wait for it – not missing a note on his guitar, the man does it all. If there is any criticism to make, it’s for something that Marr can’t help: the vocals on the Smiths songs, while good, just don’t have the magic of Steven Patrick Morrissey’s. Having seen Morrissey so many times live singing these songs, I got a lump in my throat watching these songs – their songs – being performed without him. I am still hopeful that one day we might see the two of them on a stage together again.

There is, however, one thing that Johnny Marr will always remain supremely untouchable on: his way with a guitar. He alternated between two guitars all night – a blue Fender Jaguar and a black one whose make I could not catch – and the man was on fire all night. Some particularly excited punters spent the entire evening punching the air as their god was shredding before them. There are few that can hold an audience as massive as at the 9:30 in such rapt attention, and you would be wise to not forget this. And how could you really, as he bends backward and raises his guitar horizontal over his head to finish ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ while every single person in the club chants the lyrics back to him? Word on the street is that Marr will appear – with his guitar, of course – on Noel Gallagher’s upcoming album ‘Chasing Yesterday’, due out in March 2015. My argument is, if Marr can put up with one cantankerous aging musician from Manchester, he can put up with another. Fingers crossed.

After the cut: Johnny Marr’s set list.

Johnny Marr Set List:
Panic (Smiths song)
The Right Thing Right
28 Hours
New Town Velocity
The Headmaster’s Ritual (Smiths song)
Back in the Box
Speak Out Reach Out
Generate! Generate!
Bigmouth Strikes Again (Smiths song)
Boys Get Straight
Easy Money
Getting Away With It (Electronic song)
How Soon is Now? (Smiths song)
Still Ill (Smiths song)
Lust for Life (Iggy pop cover)
There is a Light That Never Goes Out

Tags: , , , ,

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us

Privacy Policy

Keep TGTF online for years to come!
Donate here.