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FFF review: Johnny Marr

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 8, 2013

Here is pretty much everything you need to know about Johnny Marr, his status as one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters of his generation and his fanbase.

The only merchandise the co-founder of the Smiths brought with him? Shirts that said JOHNNY (EXPLETIVE) MARR. Dude knows exactly who he is and seems mighty comfortable with it.

Walking on the Orange stage a bit late Friday afternoon, thus pushing back some sets on that stage Friday evening, the 50-year old guitarist, his custom Fender Jaguar and his band cranked though songs from his solo debut, “The Messenger” along with obligatory Smiths covers.

Marr has had a very odd career, as these things go. The Smiths, one of the most important British rock bands of all time, broke up in 1987 when Marr was only 23(!). Since then, he has bounced around as a sideman in various groups, everyone from The The to Modest Mouse, formed Electronic with blokes from New Order and Pet Shop Boys, formed a band called the Healers for a bit and generally maintained profile far lower than his former bandmate, Morrissey. It took him 27 years to bother to put out a solo record. The man does not seem to be in a rush to do anything (including go on stage).

So everyone was polite and vaguely enthusiastic about songs from “The Messenger,” but folks absolutely lit up when he busted out Smiths songs, including “Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before,” “The Light That Never Goes Out,” “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “How Soon is Now?” It is genuinely strange to hear these songs with Marr’s impeccable playing (he did write all of them, after all) but without Morrissey’s singular voice. (Marr also smartly married Texas and England with a cover of Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law,” a song famously covered by the Clash.)

Was it weird to hear Marr singing these songs? Yes. Did anyone care? No. He’s Johnny (expletive) Marr.