I’ll set out my stall with a bold statement and be forever chastised for my words. I prefer Johnny Marr to Morrissey.
The Smiths are a band with whole legions of sometimes worryingly staunch supporters. They were the band that defined people’s lives. The loyalty towards them is unwavering and, for the most part justified, to see fans at your solo gig sporting Smiths gig T-shirts is both a beautiful sentiment and a hankering for the old.
If amongst this 1,000-strong crowd in Wakefield’s Warehouse 23, you managed to see more than just a glimpse of Marr’s jet black hair or a flash of his famous Fender guitars then you were lucky. To many, just to be in the same room and breathe the same, albeit muggy air in the venue as the NME-proclaimed god-like genius was more than enough.
Powering through tracks from his latest Playland album, as well as debut solo album The Messenger, Marr commanded the stage from the opening chord. The atmosphere was one of a cult rally, fans chanting back every word, locked together arm in arm sharing the moment. People had come as far as Birmingham and Scotland to witness their idol in this intense and intimate setting.
A highlight for many at a Johnny Marr or Morrissey gig is inevitably some nostalgia for The Smiths being thrown in. To many this is the reason they are in attendance, to hear the likes of Panic or How Soon Is Now chiming from the famous guitarist’s pick-ups is a rite of passage.
Herein lays my argument. Marr is more than just a guitarist; he is undoubtedly a match, if not for my ears, better than Moz. Stepping forward as a guitarist to do solo albums is one thing, but to be capable of recreating The Smiths in your own right, and having the vocal range and ability is another.
For many The Smiths will be a band whose light never goes out, but for me Marr’s glows ever brighter with each new performance and each new album. Hopefully he will be back in our city again soon.