Come for The Smiths, stay for the riffs
Jessie Atkinson
12:57 12th November 2018

The refracted light show falls like coins through the air at The Roundhouse, and Johnny Marr stands at its epicentre, face raised to the heavens, eyes closed, hands stroking his glittered Fender Jaguar. 

The man who knocked on Steven Morrissey’s front door to start The Smiths in 1982, and has since played in The The, Electronic, the Pretenders, Modest Mouse (and more, if you’ll believe it), takes his band through two hours of hits, bouncing between eras with all the joy and fringe flicks of his teenage self.

Changing between guitars with ease, the instruments run through his fingers like liquid, seemingly un-tethered to amp or pedal board, as he sends those signature jangly notes into the air like confetti. The crowd find total euphoria in the smattering of Smiths songs Marr chooses to play - ‘How Soon Is Now?’, ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’… -  and with his impressive vocals and unrivalled guitar-fondling, it really is Johnny Marr who can do these songs the truest justice.

Marr and band weave in hits from other projects too, including a rabidly-received ‘Getting Away With It’, a “disco song from Manchester, England, Europe” that Marr wrote with New Order’s Bernard Sumner and Pet Shop Boy’s Neil Tennant in 1991. Then there’s pandemonium as he brings The The’s Matt Johnson on stage for a rendition of ‘Summer in the City’ by The Lovin’ Spoonfuls. It’s the first time the two have performed live together since 1993. 

Newer, solo-penned riffs fall on eager ears too. Marr’s predilection to the guitar make pleasurable listening of lesser-known songs; dappled and beautiful on ‘Walk Into the Sea’, sexy and bluesy on ‘Hey Angel’ and addictive on 2014 single ‘Easy Money.’

Marr is such a legend that seeing him on stage is a most surreal of privileges; you’d expect someone with such a wide discography to be long gone, but Marr is still a very sprightly 55. Realms alive, grinning ecstatically and cheesy in his exchanges with the crowd - who include Ben Whishaw and PJ Harvey, by the way. 

Perhaps Marr’s current band could gel together better, but in truth, this show is all about him. The man who invented the guitar sends Camden’s Roundhouse into paroxysms of joy at every note, his era-straddling performance making for a real I-was-there affair, and proving that Johnny Marr is so, so, so much more than just The Smiths. 

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Photo: Jon Mo