The light that never went out: Johnny Marr at the O2 Institute, Birmingham

The light that never went out: Johnny Marr at the O2 Institute, Birmingham

Johnny Marr not only found fame through his unparalleled skill as a guitarist in the indie rock scene with The Smiths in the eighties, but his solo career has consistently proved that good talent and energy never really dies. Before I comment on the actual gig, let’s go back to where it all started for me.

I spent a fair amount of my teenage years listening to The Smiths, when I had a very different understanding of their music. Tracks like ‘Panic’ and ‘This Charming Man’ formed a regular part of the CDs I used to force my uncle to constantly burn for me (remember when we used to do that?!). At the age of 13, I undoubtedly found more appeal in the weirdly jovial nature of the music than the kind of unlucky, sidelined, and mysterious youngster the narratives explored. However, it was during my late teens and early twenties that their artistry provided an insightful soundtrack to everything that was, and remains to be, enigmatic, creative, and vibrantly ambivalent about my life. After all, ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ – my favourite – is a song about getting into a fatal road traffic accident after running away from home (while feeling a sense of belonging with someone you love) – how ambivalent yet weirdly wholesome is that?! Still, I adore that song and I don’t think I’ll ever stop, but more on that later.

Okay, now onto the gig.

Supporting: Crewel Intentions

South London-based rockers Crewel Intentions opened the night with their sleek and energetic demeanor. This band is an exciting new project from former Parma Violet bassist, Chilli Jesson. Their dramatic, melancholic, and reflective debut single, ‘Youth in Overload‘ represents the band’s spirit well. The track’s extravagant but nostalgic feel is beyond charming, and it really grasps your attention with its exploration of emotion and years gone by. This theatricality played into their set too. They definitely held the stage really well with their infectious sound and charisma – and sounded pretty great! Click here to check the guys out on Facebook.

Crewel Intentions’ energy and swagger definitely tied in well with Marr, who appeared soon after.

The headliner: here’s Johnny!

Yep. Still got it.

The set was a wonderful mix of new material, covers, and the classic tracks that make The Smiths so iconic. His energy was beyond infectious, and I really admire how he remained so enthusiastic and charismatic throughout his over 90-minute set. I even forgave him for saying “Hello Wolverhampton!” at the start. Throughout the gig, his witty comments certainly added a personal and honest touch to the gig which was so enjoyable.

His new record, Call the Comet, is brilliant live. Tracks like ‘The Tracers,’ ‘Day In Day Out’ and ‘Bug’ sounded great on stage, with their catchy guitar riffs and effervescent vocals. I sang along!

Now onto the classics I know and love. I went to the gig with my best friend, someone who I have spent many a day with lounging around on rainy days listening to The Smiths. Hence, you can tell how excited we must have been when Marr played tracks like ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again,’  ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ and ‘How Soon is Now?’ (where Marr particularly shines). The arena sing-a-longs were so much fun! This leads us onto the best sing-a-long: to ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ – which gave me goosebumps and got me quite emotional. There is really nothing like being in a venue full of people singing their hearts out, especially when you’re only used to shouting it in your mate’s ear after a couple of drinks. I really couldn’t help myself belting it out, although I have most definitely lost my voice for the day. Still though, totally worth it!

Final verdict?

Johnny Marr was brilliant last night. His energy and alluring stage presence makes for an engaging performance. The brilliant music speaks for itself and appealed to every kind of Johnny Marr fan. It left me buzzing, and it’s certainly not an experience I will forget anytime soon.

From Sophia with Love x 




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