Such is the depth of his catalogue, Johnny Marr can put together a 20 song set that has something for everyone. From the opening new wave sheen of Tracers, all electrified twang and icy synths via a giddy, galloping Bigmouth Strikes Again and a choice selection of Smiths tracks that, let’s be honest, is what the majority of the audience came to hear, a Johnny show is wholly entertaining and, in an era of triple-figure ticket prices, reassuringly recession-friendly and value for money.
An early set dip focuses too closely on tracks from current album Call The Comet but when he breaks into the perennial evergreen Getting Away With It – “a disco song from England,” – the show goes into orbit. Mid-way through, white hot strobes switch to sparkling glitter ball, perfect given the Barrowland’s history, and the band’s electro disco throb gives way to Marr’s chiming guitar, little arpeggios of untamed joy ricocheting out across the heads of an ecstatic audience. He gives good face, does Johnny. Whether he’s pulling guitar hero poses from atop the monitor or fixing his eyes on the array of smartphones in the audience or leaning back with his eyes closed as his fingers coax unstoppable melody from his fretboard, he does so knowing full-well his image will be shared on social media platforms the world over.
“Any requests?” he teases before he leads his band into an impromptu run-through of Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. A snippet of the riff from This Charming Man causes 1800 folk of a certain age to go heart-stoppingly weak at the knees before he slides into an imperial take on Electronic’s Get The Message. On this tour, Marr is fast becoming the indie version of his good pal Nile Rodgers, building a set of crowd pleasing hits and choice cuts from across his back catalogue and it’s the second hour of the show that truly sparkles; A brooding, gothic Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me. A trippy How Soon Is Now?, bathed in a blue and green fug with Marr wringing merry hell from his vintage Jaguar.
More Smiths follows in the encore, ensuring no-one goes home disappointed. A beautiful, lilting Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want harks back to the heady days of Smithdom, the entire audience wrung out and hung out to dry. It’s followed by an incredible There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Johnny dedicating it to “everyone in here and no-one else” before leading a euphoric call and response mass communion in the chorus. He rounds things off with a breakneck run-through of You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby, pulls another guitar pose, holds his hands aloft like a prize fighter– a featherweight, in his case, and skips off stage to rapturous applause. For generations who never saw and will never see The Smiths, this is as close as it gets. Spectacular stuff.
*this article was intended for publication in a national newspaper who were happy to run it but informed me there’d be no payment. It’s on here instead.