I caught Johnny Marr at the 9:30 Club in DC last night. It was amazing. Never in my life did I expect to see Marr playing "How Soon is Now?" six feet from my face. I thought that ship had sailed.
I grew up listening to the Smiths and he is one of my favorite guitarists. I didn't start listening to the Smiths until shortly after they broke up. I saw him play with Modest Mouse, but I never expected to see him in a small club.
Along with playing the majority of his new album (The Messenger), Marr played some Smiths songs, and "I Fought the Law" (either a Crickets or Clash cover depending on your point of view). He also played "Getting Away With It" and "Forbidden City" from his Electronic days. While I'm loving the new album, the highlights for me were the Smiths songs.
I went into the show knowing that he was playing Smiths songs and I was cautiously optimistic. Sure, I'd get to see him playing the songs. But would it be weird to not have Morrissey singing them? I shouldn't have had reservations. Johnny nailed the vocal parts. And to see how he and the second guitarist divided the parts was amazing. I always new that the guitar parts on the album seemed impossible to play. And now I realize why. It's usually two or more guitars playing intertwined parts that sound like one guitar.
The highlights for me were "How Soon is Now?" (not listed on the setlist), "London," and "Upstarts."
He played a white Fender Jag for the majority of the night. Switching to a red one for "The Messenger." They may have been the signature model, but neither had his signature on the headstock. For pedals, he had a Diamond Comp and then a lowly Boss GT-100 multi-effect. The cleans and chorus tones sounded outstanding and the gritty parts were pretty good. The only time the tone was harsh was when he went really high gain for London. For amps, he had a Deluxe Reverb and a Super Reverb. Only the Deluxe was mic'd.
And the craziest thing of all-- he was using a TC Helicon vocal processor. And it sounded great. He was definitely using it for harmonies (and it sounded great on Neil Tenants part from "Getting Away With It"). And he may have been using it for verbs and echoes.
My other big take away from the show is just how much he uses a capo. Look at this setlist - all but five songs use capo: