In the final night of latest U.S. tour and the final night of two sold-out area shows, Johnny Marr and his band made their live debut in Brooklyn on Friday. Marr, who just played Coachella last month, is in North America in support of his latest solo album, The Messenger. And, while a majority of the night was focused on his material, the iconic guitarist found himself looking back to his older bands: The Smiths, The The, and Electronic as well as his influences.
Marr, who has always let his signature guitar work do the talking, formed The Healers in 2000 and took on the role of front man. Yet, his solo work would take a back seat as he would work briefly with Oasis, then extensively with Modest Mouse and The Cribs for the remainder of the '90s. Now back with a new line-up of The Healers, Marr seemed rejuvenated, refreshed, and most of all, very comfortable to be back in the front spot.
Going on stage at exactly 10 p.m., the air in the room was electric, maybe because just moments before the New York Knicks beat the Boston Celtics to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 13 years (or maybe it was just me going nuts in the corner of the venue), whatever the reason, all of Music Hall of Williamsburg were ready to see Johnny Marr in action. Opening with the bombastic lead track off The Messenger, "The Right Thing Right," Marr, in all of his dapper Mod glory, had the crowd jumping and flailing straight away. Driving then into the Smiths tune, "Stop Me If You Have Heard This One Before," the crowd responded with defending screams and shouted the lyrics back to everyone on stage. Marr kept the momentum going with the lead single off The Messenger, "Upstarts." It was a night that heard Marr look back on his career.
"This is a song I did in a band called Electronic with Bernie Sumner of New Order," he told the crowd before going into "Forbidden City." He would do a handful of Smiths tunes including, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," and perform deep cuts off his 2003 release with The Healers, Boomslang, as well as more songs from The Messenger. While the main set lasted 75 minutes, it was the encore and what was to come that would make a great night of British rock 'n' roll simply unforgettable.
After a brief intermission, Marr and co., returned to the stage to perform The Clash's version of The Crickets classic, "I Fought The Law." Again, amping the energy up, Marr slowed things down a bit with an experimental Electric song, "Getting Away With It," then would come one of the biggest music moments not just of the year, or my own life, but of all time, Marr would introduce a special and long time friend to the stage.
Marr told the crowd:
When I was 15 I formed one of my first bands with my best friend, he was at that time of the best musicians I had ever heard. We were just kids. Then in 1982, I formed a band in Manchester and I asked my best friend to come play the bass with me and he is still one of the best musicians I have ever heard. Now tonight, 30 years later, I am going to invite one of my best friends in the world and he is still one of the best musicians I have ever heard. From The Smiths, Mr. Andy Rourke.
In one of the rarest and most surprising moments, Andy Rourke and Johnny Marr performed together on stage, it was half of a Smiths reunion, which by all accounts is better than no Smiths reunion. There was no way to contain the screams and applause from the audience, and there was no reason to. Backed by The Healers, the two friends did a phenomenal version of their classic song, "How Soon is Now?" If any band ever wanted to know how to close out an already great gig, this is how you do it.