Johnny Marr & The Healers
Night & Day Cafe
Thursday 29th September
Johnny Marr made his first appearance in seven years with his solo project ‘The Healers’ at Manchester’s Night & Day Cafe last night and performed as if he had never been away. It was the first of 3 secret shows with the new Healers line-up that conclude with two shows at Manchester’s The Deaf Institute next week. This gig was a taste of what is to come.
The four piece band features a line up different from Marr’s original ‘Healers’ project of 2003 and has a traditional shape – Drums, Bass, Rhythm Guitar/Keys, and of course Lead Guitar & Vocals being taken by the iconic Marr.
With a capacity crowd all feverishly anticipating the return of a local hero, the sharply dressed Marr & band entered the stage and unexpectedly burst straight into The Smiths’ classic ‘Shakespear[e]’s Sister’.
It was clear from this opening gambit that Johnny still undoubtedly has ‘it’ and in abundance too. It was a great version and although Marr’s is a brave man to be taking on Morrissey’s vocals he carried it off with aplomb and looked every inch the front man.
The opening track set the tone for the rest of the evening as the band played their way through a blistering set made up of new material, with a few Smiths’ classics thrown into the mix. Marr’s promise in Wednesday’s 6 Music radio interview to play some ‘golden oldies’ if the vibe was right was kept. The new tunes were all well received and bode well for his new record.
I for one certainly want to hear them again.
Strangely Marr didn’t play anything from the Healers debut album Boomslang although he clearly has a set of very strong new songs for the new Healers. He’s never one to look back, so must want to focus on the current material almost exclusively.
Of course the highlights were always going to be from his back catalogue and he played plenty of crowd pleasers including the previously mentioned ‘Shakespeare’s Sister’, ‘Headmaster Ritual’, ‘How Soon Is Now?’ & my personal standout track of the evening ‘Sweet and Tender Hooligan’. For me it was really a highlight hearing (and watching) them played by Johnny and co.
Johnny kept the talking to a minimum “It’s nice to see you all,”Â “We’re playing a lot of new songs so thanks for coming down and checking them out.”Â
By the 3rd or 4th track Marr had lost his stylish blazer as the gig warmed up, a lot. The heat was almost unbearable in the venue & led to Johnny undoing the top button on his shirt. “I need to undo this top button. Don’t you all be doing it, I did it first” he quipped.
The band were tight throughout the performance and looked to be having a great time on stage – something that was evidently passed onto the crowd as they lapped up the tunes old & new while Johnny had us all in the palm of his hands and seemed to revel in it.
The crowd was extremely varied & highlighted just how Marr’s career has reached many different audiences.
After around 12 songs the band left the stage but a quick change of shirt for Johnny & they returned for an encore.
A brilliant cover of ‘It’s My Life’ by The Animals rang out and then Johnny said it was the end of the night as he only had one change of shirt! Received by most of the crowd as a joke, I have it on good authority that he had originally intended to play one more song”Â¦ Knowing that the unbearable heat in the venue robbed us of hearing ‘There Is A Light’ was the only downside to a great night.
Sun and Moon (Reason)
How Soon Is Now
Sweet and Tender Hooligan
Words Starts Attack
It’s My Life (animals cover)
There Is A Light (not played)