Central Station, Wrexham
5th October 2013.
Johnny Marr played to a packed house at Central Station, Wrexham. Kevin A Steen went along to report for Louder Than War.
Central Station is an intimate packed to the rafters venue in Wrexham, North Wales. The opening interlude immediately rockets us back to the golden indie of the 80’s and Britpop of those messy 90’s, direct beats thrust us forward with the guitar sound that lit up a generation.
As the front lights come up, there’s Johnny Marr centre stage, small, wearing a dapper blue suede blazer, clutching his white Fender, which throughout the gig he interchanges with a beautiful orange Fender. He is sporting an iconic haircut. Growing older I envy this man before me. My male pattern baldness may only be in its infancy but I must now accept I can never have that sharp Lego man look. That of this man at 49 years of age spawns before me.
Can I get my hands on a Johnny Marr wig I wonder? Merchandisers please take note.
A member of the crowd shouts happy birthday. In which Johnny replies “in advance yeah” send us a card with a gift inside. Marr turns 50 at the end of October but still has the guile and the look of a man much younger.
Marr, half of the most influential British song writing partnership alongside the enigmatic Morrissey has kept himself busy with various projects throughout the years ranging from The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse and The Cribs but he seemed to operate frustratingly below his potential. The Smiths are impossible to leave behind.
His fluid guitar playing and song writing established him as one of the defining musicians of an era, but still I feel a sense he is missing the right man by his side.
Will they ever reunite? I like most fans certainly hope so but until that fine day when hell, fire and brimstone freeze over. He is to remain for me Richards without Jagger, Page without Plant. He is Marr without Morrissey.
He is clearly trying to address this situation within his new role as frontman. His voice is not particularly powerful or expressive but drenched in echo and buoyed by harmonies it holds the centre of songs charged with the flowing melodies and smothered with clever guitar lines that draw the ears beautifully. His new material live is delivered with a swagger and raw energy that elevates it immensely from the functional recordings on his album, The Messenger.
Lockdown has an amazing driven riff and sentimental bar wobbles Say Demesne swells with romanticism. There’s enough in the sleek, purposeful playing to suggest Marr can develop into something much more than a nostalgic guitar god.
Inevitably, the gig ignites whenever he introduces his wonderful back catalogue. Those Smiths songs that saved your life, belting out full flavoured renditions of Panic, Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, Bigmouth Strikes Again, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and, most thrillingly of all, leading a shuddering, vibrating crash through How Soon Is Now. His friendly, relaxed persona seems a world away from Morrissey’s comical and emotional lyrics, with “I am the son and heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar,” I will never be convinced that Marr could mean these words.
This is exactly what Marr is trying to achieve with his latest solo work it is his life and his words that will capture the imagination. The set is vibrant and a fully charged crowd lapped it up with various mosh pits throughout. A rendition of the Bobby Fuller Four classic, I Fought The Law, later released by The Clash goes down very well indeed.
The full set list on the night was:
Right Thing Right
Sun & Moon
New Town Velocity
Stop Me If You Have Heard This One Before
Big Mouth Strikes Again
World Starts Again
I Wanna Heartbeat
How Soon Is Now
The encore included”
Please Let Me Get What I Want
The It Switch
I Fought The Law
Get Away With It
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.
All words by Kevin A. Steen. More of Kevin’s writing can be found in his author’s archive.
Photography by Brent Jones