By John Curley
Johnny Marr’s North American tour promoting his excellent third solo album, Call The Comet, pulled into New York City’s Irving Plaza on Monday night, October 15th for a sold-out and quite spectacular show.
Marr, backed by his stellar band featuring James Doviak (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Iwan Gronow (bass, backing vocals), and Jack Mitchell (drums), hit the stage right on time at 9 p.m. and delivered an outstanding one-hour-and-40-minute set that pleased the packed house. The show opened with a strong and tight version of “The Tracers” from the new album that featured Mitchell’s pounding drums and Marr in fine voice. Marr’s fantastic guitar work highlighted the next song, The Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” and it had the crowd roaring. A heavy take on the B-side “Jeopardy” had the rhythm section providing a solid, rocking foundation for the stellar guitar work by Marr and Doviak. An intense “Day In Day Out” featured a tight performance by the band and amazing playing by Marr. The audience was very much into it.
“New Dominions” is a bit of a wild card on the new album as it’s a synth-driven track with a Kraftwerk vibe. It works quite well live, and features Mitchell on electric drums and a nice vocal by Marr. “Hi Hello,” the latest single from Call The Comet and the song from Marr’s solo catalog that sounds most like a track by The Smiths, received a tight performance that was highlighted by Marr’s great guitar work. The crowd roared when Marr and company tore into The Smiths’ “The Headmaster Ritual.” It was one of the many highlights of the show. The atmospheric “Walk Into The Sea” followed, and it featured terrific work by Marr on guitar and Doviak on keyboards.
Gronow’s bass provided the buoyant foundation for an outstanding and ecstatic take on Electronic’s “Getting Away With It.” The band delivered a really tight performance of the song as the sold-out house roared with delight. A spotlight was directed at a rotating mirror ball on Irving Plaza’s ceiling during the song, which sent spinning, reflected light all over the venue. It was quite effective and enhanced what was another highlight of the show. Marr and the band then went straight into the rocker “Hey Angel” from the new album and absolutely tore it up, getting a big reaction from the crowd. Marr’s outstanding guitar work drove the performance of The Smiths’ “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” that also featured Doviak on keyboards at the beginning and end of the song.
Marr derisively dedicated the performance of “Bug” from the new album to Donald Trump. The song’s music is power-pop sounding but it contains serious lyrics about the state of the world today. It works quite powerfully in concert. After asking the crowd for requests, Marr and the band played a great version of Electronic’s “Get The Message,” which Marr stated was released in 1991 on Manchester’s Factory Records. The performance of the song delighted the crowd. A fantastic take on “Easy Money” from 2014’s Playland album followed and received a big hand from the audience. It has become a crowd favorite at Marr’s shows. The propulsive rocker “Boys Get Straight,” also from the Playland album, was up next and was given a spiky and punky performance that pleased the crowd. The main set closed out with a rousing take on The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” that got a massive reaction from the audience. It was highlighted by spectacular guitar work by both Marr and Doviak.
Following a very brief break, Marr and the band returned to the stage and began the encore with an intense, searing performance of “Rise” from the new album. Marr started writing the song when he was in New York City two days after Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory. The song is anti-right-wing anthem that opens with the lyrics “Now here they come / It’s the dawn of the dogs / They hound, they howl / They never let up.” The crowd loved it.
The encore closed out with three songs from The Smiths’ catalog. Marr welcomed Kevin Drew from the Canadian band Broken Social Scene to the stage to assist with the lead vocals on “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.” Marr, Drew, and the band delivered a really beautiful performance of the song that elicited quite a response from the audience. An incredible version of “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” followed. Marr let the crowd take lead-vocal duties during parts of the song, and the crowd responded by singing in unison with a full-throated roar. Marr seemed pleased with the crowd’s response. A raucous “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” was the final song of the night, and Marr and company delivered a fantastic performance of it that had the audience roaring. It was a sustained cheer that lasted until Marr said his goodbyes and he and the band exited the stage.
Marr has really taken to the role of frontman and, after the tours in support of the three solo albums, he and his current band have become a very tight unit that works extremely well together. Their live show is a must see. And it’s terrific to see that the solo songs from Marr’s catalog are being appreciated by his concert audiences as much as the tracks by The Smiths and Electronic. Marr’s three solo albums are all outstanding, and they show his talent as a songwriter in addition to his considerable prowess on guitar.
Marr’s North American tour concludes on October 22nd with a show in Philadelphia. Marr and the band then head to Europe for shows that begin with a November 1st date in Belfast and conclude with the December 7th show in Antwerp, Belgium. Full tour dates can be found in the Live section at https://johnnymarr.com/.
The setlist was as follows:
Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Smiths song)
Day in Day Out
The Headmaster Ritual (The Smiths song)
Walk Into The Sea
Getting Away With It (Electronic song)
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (The Smiths song)
Get The Message (Electronic song)
Boys Get Straight
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths song)
Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (The Smiths song, featuring guest Kevin Drew)
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths song)
You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby (The Smiths song)