Should Johnny Marr be re-named ‘Johnny Young’? That was the question at Marr’s Enmore show in Sydney on Monday night. And it wasn’t because he resembled the former host of Young Talent Time but because the former Smiths guitarist oozed energy and charisma. This was definitely a case of a charming man looking half his age but playing with the virtuosity of a hardened axeman over double his age.
The support for the evening came courtesy of a young, local quartet known as Flyying Colours. The music was very layered and textual, like running your hands over some shag pile. At times this reminded people of Ride while at other moments they referenced sixties pop, garage music and Nirvana. “Bugs” – from their eponymous, debut EP – had a very dreamy quality and proved a pleasant ending to their short set.
But there could only be one man of the hour and his name was Messer Johnny Marr. The former guitarist of The Smiths who has also played with The Cribs and Modest Mouse but these days plays solo save for a tight backing band put on an excellent show. The inevitable comparisons between Marr and his former Smiths bandmate, Morrissey were unavoidable but Marr is so down-to-earth, friendly and sweet. He’s a true, English gentleman to Morrissey’s uptight, prima donna diva.
The show started with some crazy, computer game-like sounds that marked “Playland”, as the audience was launched “Again and Again” into Marr’s rock ‘n’roll fantasy camp. This was followed by an excellent cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” before the band started alternating between songs from Marr’s solo records, The Messenger and Playland. In “Easy Money”, Marr took a page out of Franz Ferdinand’s book by offering us some very danceable guitars that were also catchy. “New Town Velocity” seemed a curious choice given our close proximity to Newtown and was the antithesis of the former and was instead, a broody rock song.
During “The Headmaster Ritual” by The Smiths, the audience were enchanted by a heady mix of scatter-gun guitars and melodic guitar riffs. It was a very similar feeling that Marr also conjured up in “Generate! Generate” in all its wordsmith-like glory. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” was another favourite for the crowd, as was “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. But for this writer, it was Marr’s take on Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” that was sheer bliss. This self-described “Disco song from Manchester” was excellent and while Marr’s voice didn’t resemble his bandmate, Bernard Sumner’s, he definitely got into the spirit of it all.
Johnny Marr was the quintessential English gentleman at his Enmore show and his encore featured not one but two Smiths classics, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” and the remarkable “How Soon Is Now?”. Marr’s solo numbers are strong and they were performed well but there was no denying that the audience loved the slices of nostalgia that came from hearing The Smiths’ covers live. In all, this was an exceptional show from a good man and a wonderful guitarist. He promised he’d be back next year, but not before he had proven to be this charming man and artist.
Originally published on 23 July 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/sydney/johnny-marr-flyying-colours-enmore-theatre-sydney-20-07-15
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