In the quarter century since departing The Smiths, Johnny Marr has kept busy playing in The Cribs, Modest Mouse, The The, and Electronic, but it wasn’t until this year that he made his solo debut with the positively-received The Messenger. Following back-to-back performances at the Fonda Theater and Masonic Temple, Marr concluded his extended Los Angeles stay with an intimate set for KCRW at legendary producer/engineer Bob Clearmountain’s Apogee Studio.
Marr proved to be anything but a charmless frontman as he astonished with an unrivaled guitar wizardry delivered with a seemingly effortless swagger. The Apogee Studio only held 180 guests, but Marr enthusiastically twirled his guitar as if he were at Wembley Arena and perpetually exuded cool as he delivered punchy melodies and feats of wonder from his signature array of Fender Jaguars.
Rather than avoiding his time with The Smiths, Marr embraced history by including a few classics at the end of the set. Closer “How Soon Is Now?” cemented his status as a guitar god nearly 30 years ago, and at Apogee Studio it cried with an urgency that none of Morrissey’s touring musicians have been able to fully replicate.
While Marr’s unapologetic embracing of his roots made for the biggest crowd pleasers, it was the newer songs revealed that he can still craft a captivating jangle. The moody lines of “The Messenger” and the aura of distortion on shoegazer “Lockdown”, which he intimated to be a response to a “pompous jerk” of an author who mistakenly dismissed some English seaside towns as unlivable, were just as ripe for swaying along as “Bigmouth Strikes Again”.
Vocally, Marr was surprisingly adept for someone who hasn’t been known for singing during most of the past three decades. Although warm enough to conjure affecting quality necessary for Smiths classic “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” Marr’s voice did not exhibit an idiosyncratic quality found in singers such as his former bandmate. Nobody seemed to mind, though, since his legacy was already secured ages ago.
The performance will broadcast on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on Friday, November 15th.
Photography by Larry Hirshowitz.
The Right Thing Right
Sun and Moon
New Town Velocity
Bigmouth Strikes Again
World Starts Attack
Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
I Fought the Law (The Crickets cover)
How Soon Is Now?