Johnny Marr at Barrowlands, 03/04/24

Johnny Marr leads Glasgow back through one of the most influential careers in music

Johnny Marr is thrilled to be back in Glasgow: “One of the best places in the whole world”. Not only did the city sire Simple Minds, Deacon Blue and, er, Lulu, he reminds us, the Barrowlands has just inducted him into its own hall of a fame: a mural including the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. 

Once a Smith, now a respected solo artist, Marr is well on the way to national treasure status. Over the last four decades, he’s worked with everyone from Christopher Nolan to The Cribs, and each era is represented during this immaculately chosen set. 

Walking on to the sound of sirens, Marr and his dapper band launch into the synth-led ‘Sensory Street’ from his 2022 album Fever Dreams Pts 1–4. It’s a new-wave groove rather than his trademark jangle-pop, as sharp as the band’s suits and just as hard to resist.

Next, the capacity crowd goes wild for Smiths anthem ‘Panic’. Unlike his former bandmate, Marr sings it without adornment, letting his guitar do the talking. As the whole room bellows, “Hang the DJ!” it’s euphoric and cathartic – maybe we can have the tunes without the controversy after all? 

Tonight is a masterclass in balance. Marr knows what the audience wants and is determined to keep the quality up in between classics. With its urgent synth stabs and soaring chorus, ‘Spirit, Power And Soul’, Fever Dreams’ lead single, is a highpoint. As is the thrilling ‘The Answer’, a Bond theme that never was.  

But it’s those ageless hits that raise the roof. The plaintive acoustic of ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’; ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, with its miraculous fretboard runs; and ‘How Soon Is Now?’, here turned into a furious guitar workout. The only misstep is ‘Getting Away With It’ by Electronic, the supergroup Marr formed with New Order’s Bernard Sumner. As a single, it’s fine, but even a funked-up bass and disco ball can’t make it a set closer. 

The encore is a thing of pure joy. Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’, in honour of Marr’s new mural mate; a cheeky ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’; then everyone’s favourite Smiths song, ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, opened up into a 2,000-voice singalong. “Still got it,” says Marr, laughing. “I mean you guys. I know I’ve still got it.” Was there ever any doubt?

Johnny Marr continues his UK tour throughout April before returning for a series of summer shows, including the Isle of Wight festival. Find tickets here