Report: Johnny Marr Live in Philadelphia

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Onstage at Philly’s Trocadero this week (April 30), the erstwhile Smiths guitarist was in overdrive.

 TEXT & PHOTOS BY DAVID ISKRA

 When we arrived at the Trocadero last night we noticed a lot of posters for upcoming shows.

What stood out was the increasing number of alt rock bands reuniting and ‘80s nostalgia acts trying to make a quick buck.

It was hard to be snotty about it as we were standing amongst a sea of middle aged fans in Smiths t-shirts.

However, Johnny Marr isn’t on tour to pay a tax bill nor is he trying to relive his past glories.

This is Johnny Fuckin Marr.

The man hasn’t stopped working since The Smiths broke up, in fact he did the opposite.

He went into overdrive where other artist would have given up, realizing the chance of catching lightning in a bottle twice was near impossible.

I don’t need to delve into all of his side projects, if you are reading this article you probably know the long list of classic albums he’s contributed to post-Smiths.

The man has earned his status as Guitar God and he continues to pay his dues.

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Proof of that comes in the form of Marr’s new solo album The Messenger.

Marr seems quite proud of his latest creation as the setlist leaned heavily upon it.

From the minute he walked onstage and strapped on his white Fender Jag (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPoUB9qBdg4) he maintained an energy most performers half his age (sorry Johnny!) would have trouble keeping up with.

Though he’s known more for his guitar chops, Marr has a surprisingly decent singing voice and his well developed songwriting chops are the result of having to keep up with the best of them during his career.

The Right Thing Right set things off with a chugging momentum that rarely dipped throughout the nearly two hour set.

Obviously fans were hungry for Smiths material and Marr being the consummate showman, gave the crowd what they wanted.

The Smiths being a timeless band meant the crowd wasn’t just middle aged fans who grew up in the 80’s but also a mix of new devotees as well.

For both of these groups, this was most likely the first time they’d get to hear these well loved songs live.

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Marr’s selection of which tracks of play reflects his own standing as a music devotee himself.

Most notably was the appearance of not one but two classic Electronic tracks.

Forbidden City is a hidden gem that deserved more than the one or two airings during Electronic’s pretty short lived live history.

Marr seemed to really enjoying trotting out a song that showcased all of his classic talents.

Because it was one of Electronic’s more guitar based tracks, the band tackled it without much effort or changes.

Electronic’s debut single, Getting Away With It however took a more distinct left turn.

Having neither the other half of Electronic, Bernard Sumner (also of New Order) or the song’s co-writer, Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) to rely on, Marr pulled off a rare feat, a stripped down rock version of a dance floor classic. And it worked! It took me until the chorus until I realized what I was hearing.

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Marr kicked off the encore with a cracking cover of “I Fought The Law”.

With a big grin on his face, he was clearly having fun with the crowd.

In fact he showed his sense of humor, chatting with the usually hard-to-please Philly crowd throughout the night.

The man is a pure class act from his mod-clothes to his English wit. He really might be the nicest man in rock.

And of course you know what the final song of the encore was. We all did. How could it not be?

It’s ok.  This wasn’t a case of having to sit through an hour of new material to hear that one hit.

Marr proved that in the preceding two hours.

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Setlist:

01 The Right Thing Right
02 Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before (The Smiths)
03 Upstarts
04 Sun & Moon
05 There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
06 Forbidden City (Electronic)
06 London (The Smiths)
07 Lockdown
08 The Messenger
09 Generate! Generate!
10 Say Demesne
11 Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Smiths)
12 Word Starts Attack
13 New Town Velocity
14 I Want The Heartbeat
——encore——
15 I Fought The Law (The Crickets)
16 Getting Away With It (Electronic)
17 How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths)

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