Johnny Marr – Brighton Dome – 9th November 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

The complete antithesis to his former bandmate, Johnny Marr put on the kind of show that gets spoken about on the morning after for the right reasons. Warm, friendly, relevant, the tightrope between heritage and relevance – a fine balance at the best of times – walked successfully. One of indie music’s finest, and most beloved, guitarists showed just why he is still revered.

Crewel Intentions support, and justify the hype currently surrounding the band fronted by Chilli Jesson of ex-Palma Violets fame. A heady, intoxicating mix of Nick Cave and Echo & The Bunnymen are present, a melodramatic edge that slots together perfectly tonight. It’s very early days of course, but on the evidence of this showing it would be no surprise to see Crewel Intentions rise up the bills at a breakneck speed.

Johnny Marr is the guitar hero of indie-rock, his sound running deep inside every strand of that genre over the last 30 years. Yet, as with all artists of his age and standing, there is a question of how much new music audiences want to hear at a gig. With nearly half of the set coming from this year’s Call The Comet, Marr is clearly betting on the answer being ‘a lot’. His confidence is justified.

Much of that record clearly had an eye on nights like this: big rooms full of diehard fans ready to hear that classic Marr sound and have a good night out. That may sound like faint praise, but it is not meant in that way. Opening with ‘The Tracers’ before an early crowd-pleasing ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, it’s a safe start to the night. ‘New Dominions’ throws off the shackles however, with shades of Depeche Mode and New Order echoing through its ceaseless post-punk beat. The cinematic, pounding ‘Walk Into The Sea’ is another reminder, if one were needed, that Marr has never been one for staying inside his lane.

Hand-in-hand with his bright current form, tracks follow from his gleaming past. A massive, euphoric rendition of ‘Getting Away With It’ is triumphant, while ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ is beautiful. When singing these anthems, Marr sounds more like Morrissey than the man does himself these days, while ‘How Soon Is Now?’ somehow still manages to sound fresh and bold, even with three decades having passed since it defined a sound.

The sprint to the finish line is exhilarating. ‘Easy Money’ provokes a huge singalong, one of only two pre-Comet solo tracks, before the mighty, world-stopping ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’. With all the fuss and controversy that surrounds the other Smith, it is easy to forget the beauty and power of that band. However, tonight remains a celebration of the here and now, the heart, mind and brilliance of one Johnny f***ing Marr.

Jamie MacMillan

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