This may not be obvious to some of you, but I love jangly pop coupled with wrist-cutting lyrics. You know, bands that put out songs like The Smiths or The Brilliant Corners. Unfortunately, I didn't have the coin to see The Smiths when they were still together, but their former lead guitarist and one of the creative forces behind the band's songs, Johnny Marr, is still out there putting out new music and touring. We caught his live show at the TLA on Monday.
Everyone thinks that The Smiths were Morrissey's band. Everyone is wrong. Marr was a huge creative force in that band. But The Smiths were short-lived, lasting only about 5 years. Morrissey then went big on his solo career, putting out a lot of songs that sounded like b-sides from The Smiths. Marr, on the other hand, put out one solo album then took about a decade off of his own career, and instead was on a bunch of side projects. Those two career tracks ended up putting Marr behind as a live touring act. That's too bad for him, but great for us as he is making up for it by playing fantastic live shows in tiny venues.
Marr did a really good job handling the lead man role with his very professional and tight band. I was surprised how good his voice held up, including on the multiple covers of The Smiths songs. He isn't Morrissey, with all the theatrics, but his soft take and smooth voice added new touches to the tracks that he played. I loved hearing these songs with their signature guitar sounds played by a true master of the instrument.
And for a guy who has a reputation of not being comfortable in the lead role, that reputation is just flat-out wrong. Marr was preening around the stage, making funny jokes, and keeping the band rolling through a solid two hour set. At one point, he looked out at someone texting in the crowd (yeah, I know, who texts during a show?), and after the song was finished, Marr said "I hope you texted that that song was f#cking great, because it was!" and he was right.
Marr has played with a number of bands post The Smiths: the Pretenders, Modest Mouse, Talking Heads, Electronic - and has performed as a session musician with the likes of Paul McCartney, Oasis, Billy Bragg, Pearl Jam and Brian Ferry. He is much in demand. Marr hasn't been prolific as a solo artist, but has released two recent albums which are both solid efforts. His live show features a great combination of newer and older solo material, plus a number of great The Smiths songs. Here are three great older tracks that he played: Bigmouth Strikes Again, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, and How Soon Is Now.
I think that Marr played 7 Smiths songs, a couple by his former band Electronic and a bunch of his solo stuff. It was great. Strange that the show wasn't completely sold out - Morrissey plays much bigger venues (well, when he shows up - dig into the archives and you'll see that Morrissey snaked us the last time he was supposed to appear in Philly), and Marr puts on a terrific live show. I was amped up for it and it delivered. How often does that happen in life? Yeah, I know, hardly ever. But when it does - heaven.
And the TLA remains one of my favorite venues in town even if it's in the crappiest part of this rejuvenated city. What the heck happened to South Street? Who knows, but if you need tattoos or a condom, this is your place. But I cadged a street parking spot about 2 blocks away and zoomed home after the show (it was Monday night after all).
It was a big week for BRP. Going to a show on Monday night always sets the week up for challenges. The Man has been just insane with his demands, and I'm still recovering from being on the road and getting a touch sick. Anyway, for those that have stuck with me, I'm back now, and was ready to rock it again on Thursday night when Metallica brought its act to Philly. I'll have that review up and posted soon.
I've got a couple more shows cued up for November, and both are road trips. But that doesn't mean I'm forsaking Philly as I have a number in the pipeline at home, too. Hey, baby, it's that pre-holiday time when bands are out and touring and shows are plentiful. time to gorge!
Hang in there, keep checking back for more action, and know that I'm thinking of you all the time even if I'm not posting. And this is a most excellent time to check out the pretty extensive archives - I've been at this now for 2.5 years, and have opined and vented on all manner of topics. So get your eyeballs digging and your mouth grinning. Later, y'all!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.