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Johnny Marr's The Messenger Tour Finale at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room

Johnny Marr

Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Better than: Whatever you'll be doing on that night when Morrissey cancels his show because he has a tummy ache.

It is a rare air indeed that has filled the lungs of Mr. Johnny Marr over the course of an unbelievably charmed life in music.

Beyond his work as the Richards to Morrissey's Jagger, Marr has been involved with a staggering number of remarkably good records, played the role of guitar anti-hero for generations, and done it all while exuding the kind of inherent coolness that simply can't be learned, nor explained. He also recently became a fully realized solo artist with The Messenger , an LP that displays his many talents as a songwriter, guitarist, and surprisingly strong singer.

Last night, Marr ended the tour supporting The Messenger at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room.

See also: Johnny Marr Is the Quintessential 1980s Guitarist

The night began with a packed room enjoying the delicate vocals and jangling Jazzmaster of the lovely Meredith Sheldon, a singer-songwriter with a flair for the bedroom rock of the '90s. Sheldon's gossamer voice was as captivating as her good looks, and though the early comers to any show in South Florida are a seemingly unruly bunch, plenty paid close attention to this young woman, from whom we expect to hear much more in the future.

As the room flooded to capacity with fans, Marr was welcomed to the stage with a fluttering blast of strobe light and a clang of his signature model Fender Jaguar. Clad in the smartest of blue velour blazers, the guitarist smiled brightly as he and his band kicked into The Messenger's opening track, "The Right Thing Right," immersing the audience in a wash of perfectly rendered Brit-rock that could really only come from the likes of Johnny Marr.

The songs performed from The Messenger came to life on the stage and displayed a reverence for the understatement of the mods performed with the edge of the rockers, all realized with the sort of quiet confidence possessed only by legends of Marr's stature. "Generate! Generate!" was a particularly fun part of the set, and certainly reinforced our love of the album.

However, Marr wasted little time before pulling out Smiths classic "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before," and the crowd -- already buzzing from the guitarist's exuberant entrance -- sang along with a fanatical zeal.

He kept the stage banter brief, but was jovial and charming throughout the night, greeting the crowd with a hearty "'Ello, 'ello, 'ello" before cutting into "Upstarts." And later, after asking if anyone had heard the new album, he thanked the audience before calling them "a bunch of lying bastards" with a cheeky smile.

A pummeling report of tom drums signaled the start of Smith's favorite, "Panic," and brought the performance to a fever pitch as the crowd sang along again.

Marr, to his credit, sang the beloved words and melodies of former bandmate (and sparring partner) Morrissey with ease. And though Marr has always been known for his work as a guitar foil for others, anyone in attendance last night left convinced that Johnny Marr the frontman is just as capable as Johnny Marr the chord-smith.

Testifying to how captivating his performance was, there was an uncanny lack of camera phones filming audio nightmares for YouTube throughout the evening. Though the phones did appear for "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and Marr's signature contribution to the Smith's canon, "How Soon Is Now," people were actually paying attention, swaying along, and basking in the glow of a legend for the most of the set. And a capacity crowd, mind you!

During the solo section of "Bigmouth," the spry Marr pogo-ed his way back into the '90s and finished the riffage by huffing, "That was intense," into his mic. Most of his other big guitar moments, though, were performed from the catwalk at the foot of the Culture Room's stage, where the consummate rock star was seen manipulating tuning pegs and wiggling the whammy bar of his Fenders to the delight of the crowd below. This guy is perhaps one of the only people who can still get away with theatrics of this sort without looking like an egomaniac.

The final encore of the tour featured Meredith Sheldon returning to sing harmony on the Smiths' placid "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want." It was a beautiful moment indeed, with the song bolstered by the singing of everyone in the room, as Marr seemed to shed the weight of history. The encore continued with four more songs, including a romp through "I Fought the Law", and an unexpected dip into Marr's Electronic past with "Getting Away With It".

The final song of the tour was dedicated by Marr to the road crew, his band, but mostly to "everyone in this building and no one fuckin' else!" A disco ball was lowered and blasted by a blinding white light, and the show ended with "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out", a misty-eyed singalong for Smiths fans and a classy goodbye from Marr, whom we hope to see again sooner than later.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Currently scouring the web for a blue velour blazer.

Overheard: "I wish he was my real dad."

Random Detail: The crowd was oddly lacking in the way of young Smiths "fans."

Johnny Marr's Setlist:

-"The Right Thing Right"

-"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" (The Smiths)


-"Sun and Moon"

-"The Crack Up"

-"Panic" (The Smiths)

-"New Town Velocity"

-"The Messenger"


-"Say Demesne"

-"Generate! Generate!"

-"Bigmouth Strikes Again" (The Smiths)

-"Word Starts Attack"

-"I Want the Heartbeat"

-"How Soon Is Now?" (The Smiths)


-"Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" (The Smiths)

-"The Hop"

-"I Fought the Law" (The Crickets cover)

-"Getting Away with It" (Electronic)

-"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" (The Smiths)

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