Sunday 20 August 2023

Johnny Marr - Frome Cheese And Grain - 16th August 2023

Johnny Marr is currently in the midst of a Summer tour that’s seeing him play a combination of festivals and independent venues across the UK and Europe. One of the hardest working musicians on the scene, the legendary guitarist and solo artist kickstarted the week with a euphoric set at the Cheese and Grain in Frome - and we were delighted to be there.

Kicking off proceedings with the synth ridden Armatopia, Johnny instantly owned the stage and set the tone for the remainder of the evening. Paying homage to his days in the Smiths, Panic came next - though his talents certainly don’t end there, and it wasn’t long before we were treated to the explosion of creativity that is Sensory Street and new track, The Answer. Featuring exhilarating guitar work from the get-go, The Answer sees Johnny at his best and showcases how far he’s come as a lyricist since the release of his debut solo album in 2013; “try again and fail get again, get your moment in the sun”.

Celebrating a decade with his powerhouse of a band – Iwan Gronow, James Doviak, Jack Mitchell and newest member, Scott Docherty – Johnny curated a setlist that incorporated all four of his albums. Demonstrating Johnny’s adaptability, the ethereal Ariel was followed by the poetic New Town Velocity, before Spirit, Power And Soul. Described by Johnny himself as an electro soul anthem, the track stirred the crowd up into a frenzy and took pride of place as one of the highlights of the night.

After a sublime rendition of Spiral Cities from Call The Comet, Johnny launched into one of the most instantly recognisable opening riffs in British pop history - This Charming Man – before introducing the second new track of the evening. Titled Somewhere, the melodic track shone the spotlight on Johnny’s smooth vocals and sounded like it could have been in his set for years. As a versatile artist, you never know what’s around the corner with Johnny and things then took a moody turn with the brooding Walk Into The Sea, which features spoken world delivery from the Manchester icon. Continuing with the Call The Comet theme, Hi Hello was next – featuring some of Johnny’s most personal lyrics yet, the melodic track was treated like a long-lost friend after being absent on his last run of dates.

After storming through the blistering Bigmouth Strikes Again, there was a significant reduction in pace as Johnny began to play the harmonious opening chords of Smiths classic Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want. 

You’d think that such a beautiful moment would be impossible to follow, but a special guest was on the horizon - Johnny’s longtime friend, Billy Duffy. The Cult guitarist joined Johnny and co for a raucous performance of the Depeche Mode classic I Feel You and Smiths anthem How Soon Is Now. Contributing something different to an already amazing show, Billy’s fierce sound perfectly complimented the tracks, and it was clear to see the strength of the pairs rapport as they enjoyed sharing a stage together again.

With energy levels running high, there was only one song for it – the infectiously catchy Easy Money. Resulting in a bouncing crowd from front to back, the exuberant track took pride of place as the penultimate track of the main set. Last but certainly not least was Getting Away With It – a nod to his time in Electronic, the track boasts a stellar guitar solo and truly left the crowd enthralled.

Returning to the stage to the sound of rapturous applause, Johnny wasted no time in getting back to business and dove straight in with the uplifting Day In, Day Out, before dedicating the last Smiths offering and final track of the evening – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – to everybody in the room. Inspiring a mass singalong, the rousing track brought the night to a truly triumphant end and confirmed that life is undeniably better when Johnny Marr is on tour.

Johnny Marr's official website can be found here.  He is also on Facebook and Twitter.


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