Monday, May 6, 2019

Johnny Marr

Told ya I'd be back in a day or so!

SO first, can we agree on two things? 1. The Smiths made some of the best pop rock music of the 1980s, and 2. Morrissey is kind of a dick.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not disparaging the man's talent. I've always liked his voice, and at his best, his lyrics could be both poignant and excruciatingly funny. But let's face it, the guy is a first-class diva. He's known for storming off the stage if his audience annoys him (or sometimes for not even showing up), and I can only imagine what a pain in the ass he must be to play with.

Nevertheless, as the frontman for The Smiths, he was the band's face. And I was an admirer of the band for several years before I fully realized that there was another huge creative force for The Smiths who not only provided the tasty guitar work, but also wrote all of the music. And that man is Johnny Marr.

Morrissey and Marr split up in 1987, and it wasn't one of those friendly divorces. After the demise of The Smiths, Marr put together an impressive resume, playing with, among others, The Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse and The Cribs, leading some to speculate that he was nothing but a talented second banana. He did briefly front his own band in the early 2000s, Johnny Marr and The Healers, which included Zak Starkey on drums. For the most part, though, it seemed like Marr was content to play a supporting role.

Then, in 2013, Marr released his first solo album, The Messenger. And it was good. Damned good. He followed it up with 2014's Playland, which was maybe a bit of a step backwards, but still contained a few excellent songs. Then last year, he released his third solo effort, Call the Comet, and it might have been even better than The Messenger. Both The Messenger and Call the Comet made my Top 10 Albums lists for their respective years, and the Playland song "Easy Money" made my Top 20 Songs list. And although the releases weren't that well known in the U.S., all three albums charted in the Top 10 in Marr's native UK.

For this reason, seeing Marr live has been a goal of mine for awhile. He played the City last year, but sold out quickly (and maybe that was for the best, considering how I feel about going into Manhattan). However, as soon as I saw he was playing The Paramount this spring, I immediately bought some tickets. (I knew I wouldn't have any trouble persuading Denise to join me for this show.)

Denise and I headed out to Huntington today at about 6:30PM. I was hoping that the parking wouldn't be too wretched. (Ironically, we watched a News 12 story right before we left about how bad the parking can get in downtown Huntington. So true, so true.)

After arriving in the town, we turned into our usual lot around the corner from the club, in hopes of grabbing a spot like the one we'd scored for Jim Gaffigan last Friday. Unfortunately, it was full. There's a connecting lot to the left, however, and we were able to find a handicapped spot in the far corner of that one.

I had bought an extra seat for tonight's show. However, much to my chagrin, when we were shown to our seats, we discovered they weren't aisle seats. In the end it didn't matter, though, because although the venue was fairly crowded, our section (in the back and to the right) was pretty sparsely populated. In all, I'd say the attendance was roughly the same as it had been a couple of months ago when I saw Matisyahu there -- the dance floor was mostly full, as was the center section of seating upstairs, but there was plenty of room left in the side sections.

Before long, we ran into Mandy and Tim from Denise's WLIR group, who coincidentally had bought tickets in the row right in front of us. They decided to watch the show from the front of the stage, and Denise joined them for the first third of the show, to get some dancing in while I guarded her delicious $5 bottle of water.

One thing I want to say in The Paramount's defense, though. Sometimes I rip them (lovingly) for selling overpriced drinks and food. However, in all fairness, I generally find the venue a perfectly comfortable place from which to watch a show. Their screens on both sides of the stage make it easy to see the band, even though the seats are a little far back, and because of their large dance floor, I don't usually have people standing and dancing in front of me. For someone like me, who just likes to sit and enjoy a show without people blocking me, this is priceless. And combine that with their talent for consistently booking acts I want to see, the truth is it's worth paying a little more for my drinks and food.

Anyway, as there was no opening act, they let the venue fill out a little before Marr and his band hit the stage, which they did at a little after 8:15. Marr played as part of a tight and talented 4-piece unit. I had printed out the setlist they'd performed Saturday night in Connecticut, and they stuck to this setlist exactly. It included nine of the twelve tracks from Call the Comet, a pair of tracks from Playland, six songs from Marr's Smiths days, two more Electronic numbers, and one new song.

If I had to pick one word to describe this show, I'd say "satisfying". I love the Call the Comet album, so I was thrilled he played so much from it. I wouldn't have minded a couple of the best tracks from The Messenger, but I understand that the LP is five years old now, so he decided to focus on his newer material. As for the Smiths' numbers, I'd have made a few different choices. Last December, he covered "This Charming Man", and I'd have loved to have heard him playing that iconic jangly guitar line. But he did play "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out", which is not only my favorite Smiths song, but might be one of the best songs of the eighties. He also played "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and "How Soon Is Now", two more of their classics. So overall, I couldn't complain.

Denise made her way back to the seat about a third of the way through the set, drenched from dancing. She said that there was speculation of the floor as to whether Morrissey might make a surprise appearance at the show. Apparently, he's doing a week-long (or so) residency on Broadway this week, and tonight was one of his off nights. I laughed when I heard this, because I figured there was no chance in hell of Morrissey and Marr suddenly playing together tonight, and I was right. Because while introducing "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" during the encore, Marr pointedly dedicated the song to the audience who drove out to see him on a Monday night, and "to no one else!" Yeah, I don't think those two boys will playing in the same sandbox together again anytime soon.

In any event, the crowd seemed to love the show, and Marr seemed pretty pleased himself with both the crowd and the venue, suggesting he'd like to "do it again" sometime soon. If he does, I'll be there.

For those who are interested, the full setlist for tonight's show can be found on setlist.fm, at www.trumpandhillarywillmakelovebeforemarrplayswithmorrisseyagain.com.

Be excellent to one another!