There’s something eerie, surreal and unmistakable about being in the same room as a legend.
The cost of a ticket to see former-The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr at his recent stop at the The Vogue in Indianapolis was relatively meager. Even so, the venue was not sold out. Those in attendance were treated to a performance from a man who is not just riding off of past legacy status, but has shown that he is a formidable stand-alone musician in his own right.
Marr released his debut solo album earlier this year, titled The Messenger. The album feels like a labor of love that has been formulating for years. Not only does the album feel like a homage to Brit-rock of past decades, but it’s a very relevant and outstanding indie rock record that stands up to any other release that’s come out this year.
The beauty of seeing Marr in person lies in the experience itself – the crowd is littered with fans in their 40s and 50s; onlookers who have followed Marr since his days in The Smiths and long for a chance to sing along once again. The atmosphere is one of welcoming and nostalgia, and not once does the room ever feel uncomfortable or impatient as Marr rips through the entirety of his new record.
Marr stops at one point to ask if anyone has heard the new record before cracking a joke at his own expense. He’ll later comment that he understands who is audience is. Indeed he does. Marr will play a total of six Smiths classics during the evening, each one greeted with open arms and raised voices. Even behind the mic, in place of Morrissey, these songs feel just as alive and meaningful as they always have.
This is not an accident. Johnny Marr is a seasoned professional who knows how to play his instrument and create on the fly – even if this involves recreating his past magical work in this new, solo setting. Instead of the ghostly repeated refrain of “There is a light that never goes out” at the end of the Smiths’ classic of the same name, Marr steps away from the mic and lets his guitar tell the story that we’ve all heard hundreds of times before. This display is both exciting and appropriate.
The fact that The Vogue is not sold out on this night might be enough to make many performers’ skin crawl. Not Johnny. Instead, Marr seizes the moment, as he surely is doing at every stop of this tour, to remind anyone who attends of his place in rock lore, his snarky personality and his unending ability to create music that moves people, even if many miss out on it.
Johnny Marr knows who his audience is. We’re glad to be present and tag along for the ride – wherever his guitar takes us.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.
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