I went to Johnny Marr's UK tour opening night - and saw some of the most iconic indie songs ever

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The Mancunian legend seamlessly combined old and new tracks during a stunning North East set.

"I know, it's frightening" said Johnny Marr as he introduced one of his newer tracks after what he described as a "golden oldie" at O2 City Hall Newcastle.

When the older track in question is This Charming Man, one of The Smiths' most iconic songs, it might be easy to overthink the placing of songs in the setlist - but it is an art Marr has already perfected as he prepares to head across the world again.

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Marr opened the newest chapter of his life on the road in Newcastle on Tuesday evening, the first date of 15 months of touring across the globe and has been quick to show why he remains one of the nation's most beloved musicians.

The huge name on top of the tour posters isn't lost of support for the UK tour, Gaz Coombes who, even after headlining festivals with his band Supergrass, explained he lept at the chance to showcase his solo material on the road with Marr.

Gaz Coombes is opening for Johnny Marr across the UK. Gaz Coombes is opening for Johnny Marr across the UK.
Gaz Coombes is opening for Johnny Marr across the UK. | Jason Button

Coombes' session was a perfect way to open the night with the singer/songwriter's experience as a frontman through the years being shown throughout a set which showcased the best of his solo work, including tracks from his hugely impressive 2023 album Turn The Car Around.

Following a 45 minute set and half hour turnaround, Marr arrived on stage at 9pm and threw himself straight into his solo work flanked by his band members.

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Opener Sensory Street was followed by Generate Generate - the first time Marr played the track live since 2016 before the unmistakable opening chords to The Smiths' Panic reverberated around the venue.

To break the fourth wall, when reviewing a love show, it can be tough to really enjoy shows as much as you can as a regular gig-goer. Wanting to remember as much stage patter as possible as well as little moments during songs mean it can be tough to really get into the feel of the show - as though you are simply observing a gig rather than being part of it.

There were no such issues as Marr worked his way through the 80s hits he co-wrote with Morrissey. Panic and This Charming Man got the entire room dancing while Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want saw tears shed from fans of various age groups.

But this was a Marr solo set, and the tracks the iconic guitarist has released in the 21st century sounded just as impressive through the City Hall's sound system. The tour is part of the promotion for Marr's Spirit Power album, a run down of his best work from his four solo albums. Hi Hello was the key inclusion from 2018's Call The Comet while other albums including his newest release of new material, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 while new single Somewhere and The Answer were both given time to shine.

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It can also be easy to use a cliche when it comes to guitarists that their instrument seems to be an extension of their body, such is the ease they play with, but Marr's guitars seem to be used as tools to be used to create and distort sound in a way only Marr can, from tapping to going beyond the capo to adjust sounds as the instrument rings out.

The star's songwriting credits aren't limited to his solo albums and The Smiths, as he alluded to at various times throughout the set while covers of The Passenger by Iggy Pop and Get The Message from Electronic, a joint project between Marr and New Order's Bernard Summer.

A second Electronic cover closed the main part of the set with Marr testing hsi crowd work with names of local star from Brian Johnson to Alan Shearer, before dedicating Getting Away With It to Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, who performed on the original recording.

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Solo track Armatopia was followed by The Passenger, Smiths deep cut You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby and the incredible There Is A Light That Never Goes Out to end a stunning night.

"What a f****** way to start the tour" Marr said as the set worked its way to a close, his eyes scanning the crowd's adoring eyes - and it'll take a lot to beat that show for the remaining 15 months of the world tour.

Setlist

Sensory Street

Generate Generate

Panic (The Smiths)

New Town Velocity

Spirit Power and Soul

This Charming Man (The Smiths)

Somewhere

Walk Into The Sea

The Answer

Walk Into The Sea

The Answer

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

Get The Message (Electronic)

Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Smiths)

Hi Hello

How Soon Is Now (The Smiths)

Easy Money

Getting Away With It (Electronic)

Armatopia

The Passenger (Iggy Pop)

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby (The Smiths)

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths)

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