Johnny Marr – review

Concorde, Brighton

"So, what's going on in Brighton?" inquires Johnny Marr (left), pausing for breath at his first solo show here. "You are!" a fan lustily assures him. It's a statement of fact – Marr is most certainly "on", and playing to a burstingly full room at that – but it also says something about the esteem in which he's held. While Morrissey is busily alienating followers with intemperate tweets, his one-time foil is at the apex of his popularity. Garlanded last month with the NME's Godlike Genius award, the dapper 49-year-old has been greeted adoringly on his first tour under his own name.

Yet even the bravest deity would be nervous about taking on a full frontman role when it includes singing songs indelibly identified with Mr Mad Charisma himself. Marr doesn't stint on the Smiths numbers, either: Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before is the second song of the night, and is followed later by London, Bigmouth Strikes Again, How Soon Is Now and There Is a Light That Never Goes Out. For good measure, he hurls in Getting Away With It, from his electronic years. He dives in determinedly, and it's not exactly karaoke, but his light, attractive voice better suits the steady-as-she-goes indie-rock of his new album, The Messenger, which is aired almost in full.

He is backed by members of two previous projects, the Healers and Haven, and together the quartet are a superior second-tier band with an especially nimble guitarist. But when they're driving through the Sterophonics-like Lockdown or the 60s blues rock of Say Demesne, there's little to remind you the guitarist is one of the icons of British rock. Marr is, unfortunately for us, an egoless performer whose only showboating moment comes when he holds his Fender Jaguar over his head – then leaves the stage.

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Contributor

Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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