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JOHNNY MARR AND THE HEALERS @ NIGHT & DAY CAFÉ, MANCHESTER 29/09/11 – REVIEW BY PHIL KING

 
While Morrissey is still active on the gig circuit and plays fairly regularly, Johnny Marr however is far more reclusive these days, and plays considerable fewer shows than his former song-writing partner. So it was all the more surprising when he announced not one, but three gigs he’d be playing over the course of a week in Manchester; the first took place at the small and intimate Night and Day Café. When he plied his trade as the guitarist in the Smiths, Johnny played some of the biggest concert halls around, so the chance to see star of his stature in a tiny place like this is unique. The doors opened late but as it was a beautifully warm evening, unusually warm for this time of year, so the wait wasn’t too bad, especially as you could listen to the good-humoured banter of the other excited fans. When the Night and Day doors finally swung open everyone piled in to get as close to the stage as they could.

There was no support, but there was a DJ spinning some great records; sixties garage with a smattering of early punk in the form of Subway Sect that kind of stuff. It wasn’t unbearable loud either so it was easy to hold a conversation helped the time pass more pleasurably than if we had to stand in silence. There was no silence at half past nine when Johnny Marr and the Healers ambled on to the stage and sparked into life with a rousing rendition of Smiths favourite ‘Shakespeare’s Sister’. Besides the dapper Johnny there are three other Healers; a rhythm guitarist, a bassist, and one Zak Starkey on the drums and I’m sure his dad Ringo Starr would have been proud of his son’s performance tonight. The place was packed to the rafters and roasting hot and the two hundred people who’d come to welcome a genuine hero were sweating profusely as Johnny and his Healers proceeded to sweep effortlessly through their set. Though plenty of Healers tunes were on display tonight the biggest cheers were reserved for the three or four Smiths tunes that were littered throughout the set, the biggest obviously for mammoth hit ‘How Soon Is Now’.

Johnny is now in that enviable position of being a respected musician with a fantastic back catalogue, but still managing to be someone that’s down-to-earth and whom you could easily share a pint or two with. He’s more like a best mate than a rock star. It was a great little set, well-paced and full of surprises, in fact a real gift for his fans. He brought the main set to a close with a Smiths rarity ‘Sweet & Tender Hooligan’, and then came back to play one more song, say thank you and make his getaway. It really is great to have him back!

Johnny Marr and the Healers play the Deaf Institute on the 4th and 6th of October. www.johnny-marr.com

Setlist:

Shakespeare’s Sister
Psychic Beginner
European Me
Sun & Moon (Reason)
Headmaster Ritual
Upstarts
Heartbeat
Say Demesne
How Soon Is Now
My Delta
Sweet & Tender Hooligan

Encore:

Word Starts Attack

Review/photos by Phil King