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Johnny Take A Bow

Johnny Marr – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill – 15th October, 2014

Written By Andy Gunton

  • Photograph by John Powell

  • Photograph by John Powell

  • Photograph by John Powell

When you walk into an auditorium and find that the seats have been removed, you know you’ve arrived at a ‘proper’ gig and so it was at the De La Warr Pavilion on Wednesday evening.

I’d not been to a non-seated gig at the venue before, so it was a pleasant surprise. Yes, there were seats available in the balcony, but any gig of this type just seems a bit more ‘rock and roll’ if it’s standing only doesn’t it?

To compliment that, Johnny Marr brought along his impressive full light show as well, guaranteeing a great atmosphere. As might be expected, the large crowd seemed to mostly consist of original fans of The Smiths, plus some younger, more recent converts.

This was only the third date of a tour that will take the band across the UK, USA and Australia, but they were already firing on all cylinders.

Opening with the title track of his new album ‘Playland’, Johnny Marr split the 90 minute set between both ‘Playland’ and his previous solo offering, ‘The Messenger’. And much to the obvious delight of the crowd, he also managed to squeeze in several songs from The Smiths repertoire too and even a cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ for good measure.

Naturally enough, it was those songs of The Smiths that got the best reaction during the gig. Coming as they did at regular intervals, they kept the momentum going for those maybe less familiar with Johnny Marr’s solo work. Not that that was needed though, as this was an impressive performance and the band seemed to grow in stature as the evening progressed.

Stand out tracks were the new single ‘Easy Money’, ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ which got a big reaction and a rocked-up version of ‘Getting Away With It’, a song originally recorded back in the late 1980’s as Electronic, with New Order’s Bernard Sumner on vocals.

But the song that really stood out for me was the final track of the ‘normal’ set, The Smiths’ ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’. This was partly due to the sing-a-long by the audience of the song’s lyrics. Hearing an audience sing, pretty much as one, about getting hit by a ten ton truck and a double-decker bus, was really rather surreal.

The final song of the night, ‘How Soon Is Now’, was pretty special too. It’s one of those songs that made many people sit up and listen when they first heard it back in 1985. So much so that a friend of mine, who was at this gig, told me how he’d first heard the song blasting out from a bedroom window and had felt compelled to stand and listen, until the song finished. He then shouted up to the window to ask who the song was by, thankfully the answer was forthcoming. Yes, for those who are unaware, it really is that kind of song.

I was never lucky enough to have seen The Smiths live, but this was a gig that made me wish that I had. It was probably the closest I’ll ever get to doing that too. That is not to downplay this gig and this band in any way at all. Johnny Marr’s band were excellent and the man himself is still one hell of a guitar player. His distinctive style and sound came across really well, partly due to the great sound quality.

I’m sure there were many musicians and especially guitarists in the crowd, straining to see what he was playing and how and no doubt wishing that they could play in the same way themselves. If I were a guitarist, I know I would.

So, all in all a very good gig, by a very good band. I wasn’t alone in thinking the same either, judging by the reaction of the crowd. And seeing the band’s soundman bopping away at his mixing desk, was a vote of confidence too.

It all begs the question, who needs to travel all the way to Brighton, or even London, when you have gig’s of this quality on your doorstep?

Let’s hope that the De La Warr Pavilion will bring us more of the same over the coming months. I have a feeling they will.


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