Johnny Marr at the O2 Academy Brixton 23/10


This was originally planned to be a review, but after last night there is just no way I could give any professional unbiased opinion on something I became so emotionally attached to. Johnny Marr at the Brixton last night was the concert my whole life had been building up to. That isn’t even a statement of over-exaggeration. I wished so much that I could go back in time and tell 15-year-old me what my life has become, really one of those “it gets better” stories. Instead of crying on my bed to The Smiths I was standing in awe of the very musician that made me fall in love with music.

Marr’s set opened with the title track off his new album Playland – a whirling and powerful tune that was immediately followed by the Smiths classic “Panic”. Now Marr’s voice is nothing like Morrissey, but Morrissey who? He isn’t needed anymore. Johnny could pull off the vocals well enough on his own. In fact, the set included several big singles from the indie band like “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “Tell Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before”. The nice touches were including the gorgeous “Still Ill” and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”. During the latter, there was a beautiful and truly touching moment where the crowd sung their sick professions of love acapella: “to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die”.

But while the Smiths tracks were real crowd pleasers, Marr also made sure he promoted his two solo albums (which are very good in their own right). Singles like “Easy Money” and “Upstarts” from his first solo attempt The Messenger are quickly becoming classics. The problem is with going to see many established acts is that often listeners can become bored with the work they aren’t familiar with, but thankfully the set was engaging enough thanks to a truly great guitarist-turned-frontman. Tracks like “Boys Get Straight” and “Generate! Generate!” are a pleasure to listen to live.

After the band took their exit after the set. The crew began setting up a red semi-acoustic guitar which only proved that certain rumors were true. Marr came back on stage to introduce a friend he had known for the past 20 years. Someone who was a great songwriter and a promising future: Mr. Noel Gallagher. Even though most people in the audience were expecting it, they still went wild to see two of Britain’s most iconic guitarists on stage together, and it was really something special.


Gallagher joined for the the last two tracks – a cover of “Lust For Life” (here comes Johnny Yeeeeeen) and a truly incredible live reimagining of “How Soon Is Now”. Even after the final notes faded away and the two friends hugged and left the stage, I waited for something more. Anything more. This was the first show that I had seen in possibly my entire life that I truly felt upset by the ending. It ended perfectly but I just wanted it to never end.

Other than the concert finishing, the only criticism of the night had to be that there should have been more solo work. While much of the audience was waiting for The Smiths tracks, Marr’s career is so much more than that. Thankfully the setlist also included “Getting Away With It” from his work with Bernard Sumner in Electronic. The track showed off a bit of the depth that the guitarist’s back catalogue has.

If anything, Marr only continues to prove himself as a great musician. Not only has a guitarist, but as someone who can lead a band. Last night revived the dead inside me and reminded me what it’s like to love music but to be truly moved by it, and that’s a very special thing to achieve.