Back in April, Johnny Marr announced the details of his third album ‘Call The Comet’, shortly followed by an album launch tour that saw him visit twelve intimate venues across the UK, America and Canada over a three week period. The album stormed the vinyl charts in particular and since its release, Johnny and his band have been busy with an extensive tour of the states, Canada and the UK – we were at the O2 Apollo Manchester on Sunday night to catch the final date of the UK leg.
To say that the O2 Apollo Manchester is a special venue to Johnny would be a huge understatement – not only did he play a blinder of a gig there during his ‘Playland’ tour back in 2014, but he grew up just two streets away, self confessing in his book ‘Set The Boy Free’ to having sneaked in via the Ladies toilets on a regular basis. As the lights went down and ‘Time’ from the ‘Inception’ soundtrack (scored by Johnny and Hans Zimmer) began to play, the crowd broke into rapturous applause and the very second that he swaggered onto the stage with his trademark Fender Jaguar in hand, it was clear to see that we were in for one hell of a homecoming.
First up was the new albums cinematically tensive and bass driven lead single ‘The Tracers’, loaded with inspiration from his work with Hans and kicking proceedings off nicely, before Johnny raced to the edge of the stage to deliver the raucous as ever opening riff of the first Smiths track of the evening; ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. Johnny’s known to be a firm believer in the importance of B sides and it was a pleasure to hear the funky riff and infectious melodies of the recently released ‘Jeopardy’ fill the room, defying everybody not to dance and supporting his reputation as the master of writing catchy tracks that couldn’t belong to anybody else – from the upbeat acoustics of ‘Day In Day Out’ to the melancholic ‘Hi Hello’, which features some of his most personal lyrics yet and triggered a hugely positive reaction from the crowd.
Though of course Johnny’s talents don’t stop there and he worked closely with his impressively tight band to deliver intense and almost biblical renditions of the breathtaking ‘Walk Into The Sea’ and the chilling Smiths classic ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’. ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ showcased some of Johnny’s strongest vocals of the night, along with his new single ‘Spiral Cities’, that’s maintained a wealth of hype around it since it’s arrival in the 2015 ‘Adrenalin Baby’ tours set list, before finding its home on ‘Call The Comet’.
Johnny’s confidence as a front-man appears to grow on each tour and this was notable when he asked if anybody had any requests; performing an impromptu rendition of Kylie Minogue ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ and claiming to have forgotten how to play ‘This Charming Man’, before teasing the opening riff and diving into Electronic classic ‘Get The Message’. ‘Get The Message’ shone brightly and Johnny’s vocals glided through both that and ‘Getting Away With It’ at ease – it was certainly pleasing to see him play homage to that era of his career.
The set came to an almighty end with ‘How Soon Is Now?’ before Johnny and co returned to the stage to chants of “Johnny Fuckin Marr” and began a glorious encore of ‘Call The Comet’ opener ‘Rise’, political stomper ‘Bug’, ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ and ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby’. As expected, ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ sounded huge and the level of crowd participation had Johnny smiling throughout.
Johnny Marr certainly delivered the special homecoming show that he hoped for on Sunday night and with three incredible solo albums behind him, we’re looking forward to what wizardry he’s got waiting for us in 2019.