So you missed Johnny Marr when he played the Fonda a few weeks ago, you’re not going to fly to New York to see him play Webster Hall tomorrow night, and you don’t want to wait “a few years” until he releases his memoir. Today, you have another chance to hear him play live.
This morning, KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic will air a live, pre-recorded show with the former Smiths guitarist. The 13-song set, which was recorded November 4 at Apogee Studios in Santa Monica, mostly featured tracks from his first solo album, The Messenger. Since the Smiths disbanded decades ago, Marr has played with everyone from Billy Bragg and Paul McCartney to Modest Mouse and Bernard Sumner, but this is his first stint fronting his own band. How does he fare? Great.
He has the chops, the charm, and swagger to spare. (And his hair has somehow remained unchanged.) “I’m not actually Tony Montana,” he joked before strinking the jangly opening riffs of “New Town Velocity,” which sound uncannily like an early Smiths outtake. He excoriated a British journalist who had written a piece about the UK’s crappiest towns, saying “what a pompous dick” before launching into the song “Lockdown.” Whether it was the long, howling high-pitched wails of “Sun and Moon” or the industrial disco claps of “The Messenger,” he played a tight, controlled, super professional set of new material while throwing a few bones to longtime fans. Those would be note-perfect renditions of “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” “Please Please,” and “How Soon is Now.” But it was his cover of the garage rock anthem “I Fought the Law,” first made famous by Bobby Fuller and later by the Clash, that might have been the cheekiest nod to the intra-band legal dispute (settled long ago) and his former bandmates.
The Right Thing Right
Sun and Moon
New Town Velocity
Bigmouth Strikes Again
World Starts Attack
Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
I Fought the Law (The Crickets cover)
How Soon Is Now?