Photo Credit: Laura Dean

Johnny Marr – EartH, London (9th December 2018)

Just last month, Johnny Marr announced a gig at EartH — the recently reopened, renamed Hackney Arts Centre. The intimate gig was his third in London this year, following sold-out dates at Islington Assembley Hall and the Roundhouse – it was also the gig that brought his extensive tour, in support of his third studio album ‘Call The Comet’, to an end.

The album’s intense and brooding leading track ‘The Tracers’ was up first, followed by the first Smiths offering of the evening; the blistering ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. ‘Call The Comet’ is a perfectly crafted album with hooks aplenty from Marr and he impressed early on in the set with the irresistibly catchy ‘Hi Hello’ B Side ‘Jeopardy’, as well as with the upbeat acoustics of ‘Day In Day Out’, which saw him visit the edge of the stage for the exhilarating guitar solo. There’s a heavy emphasis on atmosphere throughout ‘Call The Comet’ and the electro-noir ‘New Dominions’ in particular showcased that, before Marr dived into the melodic and lyrically stunning ‘Hi Hello’ – though drastically different in sound, the two tracks came together to draw attention to just how much Marr has developed as a songwriter. 

When it came to The Smiths tracks, Marr was as generous as always and the crowd went wild for ‘The Headmaster Ritual’, ‘How Soon Is Now’ (complete with the addition of the outro to BuzzcocksAutonomy’, in tribute to the late Pete Shelley) and the breathtaking ‘Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me’; with the latter boasting one of Marr’s finest vocal performances of the night. Though it’s not just The Smiths tracks that fans are keen to hear, and the crowd pleasing Electronic track ‘Getting Away With It’ was a sublime part of the set; complete with disco balls lighting up the venue and Marr taking his guitar breakdown to the edge of the stage, closing his eyes in the moment and smiling at the awestricken crowd as they watched him work his magic. This tour was the first to see the addition of Electronic’s ‘Get The Message’ in the set list, shining brightly and defying everybody there not to dance – including Marr, who appeared to be more comfortable and confident than ever in his role as a frontman.

‘Walk Into The Sea’ never fails to impress and after over fifty shows this tour, the band well and truly worked collectively to deliver a performance of biblical proportions for one last time. Marr’s latest single ‘Spiral Cities’ was another track that sounded stronger than ever, receiving a solid reaction from a crowd who have no doubt loved it since its arrival on the set list of Marr’s Wakefield Warehouse gig back in 2015, where it’s thankfully remained ever since! The final track before the encore saw Marr ask if anybody had any requests and perform an impromptu rendition of ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ by Steve Miller Band, before teasing the iconic intro of The Smiths ‘This Charming Man’ – something he’s done for the entirety of the tour. Though this time was different and with the help of his band, Marr went guitar-less and performed the whole track for the first time since embarking on his solo career; looking effortlessly cool as his voice glided through each verse whilst he walked along the front of the stage, consistently interacting with the crowd – we can confidently say that nobody will be forgetting that in a hurry!

What could possibly follow Johnny Marr playing ‘This Charming Man’? Don’t worry, the Godlike Genius had thought this through and kicked the encore off with ‘Call The Comet’ opening track ‘Rise’, with its pulsating guitar line maintaining the energetic tone of the evening. Political stomper ‘Bug’ was next, before Marr thanked the crowd for coming out to see the show; dedicating ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ to his band, crew and fans. ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ provided a singalong of epic proportions and luckily for us, Marr had another track up his sleeve; ending the night on ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby’ and getting the crowd bouncing for one last time.

As far as tour finales go, Johnny Marr’s at EartH was a blinder. With three solid solo albums behind him and a wealth of positive live reviews, he’s very much at the top of his game and with various tours and festivals already being teased for 2019, we couldn’t be more excited.