REVIEW: Johnny Marr connects his past with his present at the Fillmore

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Johnny Marr, The Smiths, Electronic

Johnny Marr performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Sept. 27, 2018. Photos: Joaquin Cabello

SAN FRANCISCO — “Does anyone have any requests?” Johnny Marr asked toward the end of his set at the Fillmore Wednesday evening; the third of four concerts spread out to the corners of the Bay Area. Dozens of voices jumped in with suggestions but the former Smiths’ guitarist was unfazed. “Did someone say ‘Get The Message’ by Electronic?”

Marr is mostly playing the same songs on his current tour, in support of his 2018 record, Call the Comet. So the Fillmore show was less about looking for surprises and more about connecting his past with his present. The show included an even mix from his days in The Smiths and newer material. “How Soon Is Now” may have still been the emotional, nostalgic climax, but it was how Smiths’ songs like that one and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” connected with his new songs that served as the focal point.

Johnny Marr opened with the driving new Call The Comet tune “The Tracers” before transitioning right into The Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and then 2018 single “Jeopardy,” which was coated in ’90s garage undertones. “Hi Hello,” another newer track, with sweeping, ringing guitars, preceded The Smiths’ “The Headmaster Ritual.”

The funky bass line of “Getting Away With It,” by Electronic (a Marr project with New Order singer-guitarist Bernard Sumner) made the song danceable. That was accentuated by the infrequently used Fillmore mirrorball.

Marr, for his part, was mostly concerned with getting from one song to the next.

“I keep forgetting I’m supposed to talk; I dont mean anything by it,” he said midway through the show, before introducing his band. The conversation veered toward the funky smell in the room (as visiting artists sometimes do when they visit San Francisco). “I got so paranoid two songs ago. No I just want two pieces.”

Looking for something else to discuss, he was served with a few ideas from the front row.

“Politics, Eh? That’s great—this song’s called “Bug.”

“Bug” was peak Britpop, a song Oasis could have written in its heyday. Elsewhere, “Easy Money” stood out for its post-punk guitar playing, and “Boys Get Straight” for its punk drumming.

Belle Game

Belle Game performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Sept. 27, 2018.

By the time the show reached “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” the fans were ready to sing the popular refrain, “… to die by your side.”

Vancouver, B.C., band The Belle Game opened the show with a set of bassy dream-pop on songs like “River,” “Up Again,” “Yuh” and “Spirit.” “Oh I,” off 2017 album Fear/Nothing, was the sort of grandiose, dramatic pop song that would have been right at home in the mid- to late-aughts, alongside the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter. Follow photographer Joaquin Cabello at Instagram.com/joaquinxcabello.

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