This Johnny Marr article was written by Laura Dean, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
“Panic on the streets of Birmingham” a pumped up and excitable audience sang along with Johnny Marr, who played the Birmingham Institute last Monday; his first trip to the second city since Moseley Folk Festival last summer, and the second night of his ‘Adrenalin Baby’ tour.
Known for his reluctance to take time off and his love of working, Marr’s been very busy since then. Not only has he toured from the UK to Japan, but he’s also released his second album ‘Playland’, a cover of Depeche Mode track ‘I Feel You’ for Record Store Day, and is set to release his live album ‘Adrenalin Baby’ next month.
Marr and his band took to the stage at 9pm with ‘Back in the Box’; the energetic opening track of ‘Playland’. Upon writing ‘Back in the Box,’ the former Smiths guitarist claims to have known instantly that it would be an opener, and what an excellent opener it is, as Marr’s voice echoes “the universe explodes-odes-odes” throughout the venue.
The entire set was incredibly well received and it was obvious from early on that Marr has mastered the art of writing set lists, including Smiths tracks ‘Panic’, ‘Still Ill’, ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and his own beautiful take on electronic ‘Getting Away With It’, inclusive of a glorious guitar breakdown accompanied by the splendor of a glitter ball.
Marr was full of compliments for Birmingham when he spoke to the crowd, stating it to be one of the first locations he penned down for the tour. Though he did have to shush the rowdy crowd before diving in to the explosive opening riff of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. After a sublime version of the single ‘Dynamo’, Johnny joked with the crowd regarding who had bought both of his albums, before introducing a new song that hasn’t been recorded yet called ‘Spiral Cities’. The track was instrumentally addictive, with Johnny’s voice sounding wonderful and stronger than ever.
Marr played a mix of tracks from both of his albums, such as ‘Speak Out, Reach Out’ and ‘Easy Money’ with their infectious riffs from ‘Playland’, as well as crowd pleasers ‘Generate! Generate!’ and ‘Upstarts’ from his first album ‘The Messenger’. My highlight of the gig was the bold and fast paced ‘Playland’ track ‘Boys Get Straight,’ with its soaring chorus almost reaching the final second of the track, before bursting in to ‘Word Starts Attack’ from ‘The Messenger’. I’m positive that there is no way that you can listen to ‘Word Starts Attack’ without bouncing your head along, and I’m sure the man himself agrees as, he bounced from side to side on the stage. It was essentially two strong tracks and epic performances stitched in to one.
The last track was Smiths favourite ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, a track that I’m sure a grinning Johnny Marr will never get tired of playing as it resulted in a sea of fans singing along. The atmosphere was electric and the extended outro as the crowd almost dueted the chorus with Johnny for one last time was truly special. “See you soon, if you know what I mean” shouted Johnny before leaving the stage and returning with ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby’ – a Smiths track he’s only recently added in to his set list that his voice absolutely glided through.
The encore also saw Johnny introduce his son Nile Marr, who had impressed the crowd earlier as part of the support act with his band ‘Man Made’. Nile and Johnny played a brilliant cover of the Primitives ‘Crash’, dedicated to David Cameron – self taught, Nile is a phenomenal guitarist and if watching double Marr play guitar wasn’t awe striking enough, the combination of Nile’s soft and Johnny’s raw vocals complimenting each other was. The last track was Smiths cult classic ‘How Soon Is Now’, sending shivers down the spines of everybody in the crowd as that tremolo sound echoed around the room.