Preconceived notions and expectations can be incredible sources of disappointment. A predetermined image or an idea of how a film will unfold or how a record will sound or how a concert will flow can often be the standards to which we can only hope said art forms will live up to. And when they don't live up to our hopes, we often feel betrayed and ripped off. However, when those very expectations are surpassed and exceed our wildest imagination, the elation and the rush we experience is pretty indescribable.
So was the case with last Monday night's Johnny Marr concert at the cozy Beacham Theatre in downtown Orlando. I knew this would be a special show. Besides the fact that Marr is an amazing, accomplished guitarist and that he was the heart and soul of The Smiths, one of the greatest British rock bands of all time (yes, I said it), his current solo album, 2013's The Messenger is a superb display of Marr's fine songwriting and playing and showcases his appealing, emotive vocal talents.
As Marr and his fine three-piece took the stage amid a constant barrage of strobe lights and opened their set with "The Right Thing Right" — the opening Teardrop Explodes-like rocker from the new album — I knew instantly that this was going to be a memorable night. The sound in the room was warm and bright. Marr looked every bit the cool, dapper rock star he's portrayed since his days as the musical architect of The Smiths, clad in a grayish-blue hip jacket over a black shirt and black jeans and sporting his typical mod haircut. The well-preserved 50-year-old looked youthful and spry. And when he started singing and playing, I was completely won me over by verse two.
Every once in a while and when you're least expecting it, it seems, the faith and the belief you've invested into a life that's dedicated to rock 'n roll can be restored and rejuvenated. This night proved to be one of those pivotal moments for me. It's been a while since I've attended a show that really connected and spoke to me to this degree. As Marr cleverly worked his way though his brilliantly-paced setlist sprinkled with Smiths classics, his intensity, swagger and presence seemed to grow larger and larger. By the time he got around to the one-two punch of "Generate! Generate!" (the catchiest and most earworm-y cut from the new album) and "Bigmouth Strikes Again" (featuring some of his most jaw-dropping guitar work from the Smiths catalog), the hysteria I was experiencing along with the rest of the passionate, tightly-packed crowd had reached a fever pitch.
Strutting from end to end of the stage, striking cool poses and joking with the audience between songs, Marr's more than won over every person in the venue. A prime example of what a rock show should look like, sound like and most importantly, feel like, Marr's nearly sold-out show —the next to last stop on his current U.S. tour — was a resounding triumph and a true testament to his skill, charisma, versatility and musicianship.
An encore that featured a cover of the 1958 Sonny Curtis classic "I Fought The Law" (which more closely resembled The Clash's 1979 arrangement) and a nod to Marr's stint as part of Electronic (the duo act that also featured Bernard Sumner of Joy Division/New Order fame) was capped off with arguably the greatest-ever Smiths song, "There is A Light That Never Goes Out." It more than solidified the sheer magnitude of the brilliant 95-minute set the Orlando crowd had just witnessed.
This show will indeed not only end up ranking as my favorite of 2013, but will surely go down as one of the best and most memorable shows I've ever witnessed and been a part of. Serving prior stints as a member of The The, Modest Mouse, Electronic and The Cribs, Marr more than proved he's a mighty, viable solo performer, and that he's carefully honed his stage presence over the years, and that he knows how to rock.
To say that I'm glad I made the weeknight trek up to Orlando for this show is a grave understatement; the inspiration and fulfillment I walked away with from the whole magnificent experience is sure to last for a long time. Thank you, Johnny Marr for revitalizing my undying belief and dedication to rock 'n roll. You continue to reaffirm what a longtime fan of yours already knew.
The Right Thing Right
Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before (The Smiths)
Sun & Moon
The Crack Up
Panic (The Smiths)
New Town Velocity
Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Smiths)
Word Starts Attack
I Want the Heartbeat
How Soon Is Now (The Smiths)
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (The Smiths)
I Fought The Law (Sonny Curtis)
Getting Away With It (Electronic)
There is A Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths)