Fun Fun Fun Fest Live Shot: Johnny Marr

A true rock star set from the Smiths guitarist

Fun Fun Fun Fest Live Shot: Johnny Marr
photo by John Anderson

Johnny Marr defines rock star. When the former Smiths co-leader walked onstage in his crushed velvet jacket, skinny jeans, striped tee, and rooster cut, his status would’ve been obvious even without the Jazzmaster guitar around his neck.

Yet Marr’s not the kind to strut onstage expecting, even demanding, the adulation that’s his due. No, Marr remains that gentleman rock star that earns worship by virtue of talent and indefinable but undeniable cool, an icon who can take the stage 20 minutes late and gain instant forgiveness. He’s also a musician that can take an audience’s indifference in stride.

Marr and his backing trio played half a dozen tunes from his excellent new album The Messenger with confidence, precision, and plenty of rock & roll energy. Even then, “The Right Thing Right,” “The Crack Up,” “Upstarts,” and “Generate! Generate!” earned a muted response. This crowd of 20-to-40-somethings came to hear the Smiths catalog and politely tolerated tunes as strong but not as familiar as those that influenced a generation.

Marr thus treated that audience to superb renditions of “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” ending, of course, with the guitar orgy of “How Soon is Now?” and a cover of “I Fought the Law” by way of the Clash. Thanks to that unflappable rock star cool, Marr betrayed not a whit of disappointment in the lack of enthusiasm for The Messenger.

“You’ve got our record, right?” he asked sardonically.

Crowd: “Yeah!”

Marr, deadpan: “You lying bastards.”

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