Johnny Marr, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 21 October 2014

Imagine being in an indie guitar band and being on tour with the man who wrote the hymnsheet/instruction manual/bible of how to play the whole genre. Anyway, support band Childhood from South London rose to the occasion with style and swagger. Singer/guitarist Ben Romans-Hopcraft led the band through many of the tracks from their confident debut album ‘Lacuna’, much praised in the NME and given some extra energy in the live performance, filling the rafters of Cambridge’s most cavernous venue. There was a warm reception from the growing crowd, their set was a real bonus to the evening and Johnny Marr was to praise them generously later on..

To a rapturous ovation, the winner of the NME ‘Godlike Genius’ Award in 2013 took the stage, the backlights spelling out the name of the new album ‘Playland’, the title track being the opening song. Extra guitar, occasional keyboard and tight and rock solid bass and drums from his band were a secure backing through the evening but it was the guitar moves of Johnny Marr that we all wanted to see. In case anyone wondered how the old songs would fit in, Smiths classic ‘Panic’ was next, with its prophetic ‘Hang the DJ’ refrain..(of course the DJ playing the Damned/Roxy Music/Talking Heads/Magazine vinyl singles during the interval should certainly escape that fate…)

The next 90 minutes followed this in a similar way, great punchy songs from JM’s two solo albums and more Smiths songs too. A highlight was the quieter ‘New Town Velocity’, a thoughtful, nostalgic tale of alienation. Building up to a finish with Electronic’s ‘Getting Away With It’ and then the distinctive opening strum of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, sometimes known as ‘The National Anthem of Smithdom’ and quite simply one of the greatest pop songs ever.
Five songs in the encore, including a cover of ‘Lust For Life’ and ending with the unmistakeable tremolo layers of an extended version of ‘How Soon Is Now?’, another classic and a great ending to the show.


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