The Wedgewood Rooms at Southsea has seen many acts pass through its doors, historically it has been the home of up and coming acts or those who are returning to the fold, relatively tiny capacity but one that means that everyone there is up close and offered the chance to really feel part of the gig where larger venues seem, these days, to distance the act from the audience more.
The Wedge has pulled off a number of major names to play there, often as warm ups to bigger events. Recently the Gorillaz prepared for their headline at Glastonbury with a set at the Wedge and in the past couple of months, Damon Albarn and Jamie T have come along to entertain the locals (well the locals who actually can get tickets). Returning for the second time in very quick succession was, for me, the one to get really excited about. I missed out last time and was determined not to miss the Greatest Guitarist the country has produced a second time.
The first impression as I arrived to hear a very entertaining set from local lad The Boy I Used To Be – someone who will be destined, i feel, for bigger and better things was that the crowd seemed a little more mature than usual. Clearly a large number of Marr fans from his days in the Smiths had secured those precious tickets.
Bang on 9 o’clock and with a back drop simply saying ‘JOHNNY” out the man came and went straight into Upstarts from his current album The Messenger. Immediately it became clear the crowd were really up for this. The whole place was bouncing and joining in.
The real joy of Johnny Marr is simply just how much stuff he has worked on, from his early days creating magic with Morrissey and co through the superb and underrated Electronic. He even managed to make the film Inception better than it already was with a stirring soundtrack.
This catalogue meant that straight after Upstarts, the remarkably familiar riff to introduce Panic came into play. To be able to simply drop a song of that magnitude into the very start of the set really shows just how much talent the man has. Anyway, if the crowd were up for it with Upstarts the place simply exploded. Here was the man, the original man treating us all to one of the classic songs of the ’80s!
It didn’t stop there, Stop Me followed up straight after before a couple of numbers from his Messenger album including the title track and opener The Right Thing Right.
By now he had us all eating out of his hands, and was able to even slip in a couple of teasers from his next album (Playland – out in October). Both of those simply adding to the night without the quality once dropping.
The place was so hot that by now, even the cool as hell Johnny Marr had to lose the jacket. Playing in shirt sleeves he explained that as part of his day he had been for acupuncture and wondered if anyone else had tried it. Despite the set up it was pleasing nobody shouted in response ‘I bet you felt a prick!’.
Once he had played a few off the new album it was time to delve back into his wonderful back catalogue. It was time for Bigmouth Strikes Again, the place went absolutely mental, the evenings first crowd surf was successfully completed, prople were on each others shoulders and the heat in the room simply seemed to go up to 11.
As mentioned before I always thought Electronic were never given the plaudits they deserve, Getting Away With It is one hell of a pop song so imagine my delight when yet another epic guitar solo introduced us all to exactly that, even if Neil Tennant and Bernie from New Order were not there to join him. Mention must also go to Marr’s band here too. I cannot imagine having to back up one of the all timer greats but they sure did an excellent job and clearly enjoyed themselves as much as the rest of us.
The main set was ended by, in my opinion, the VERY BEST Smiths song ever. I cannot begin to describe just how wonderful There Is A Light is. So I won’t, needless to say I was in heaven, as was everyone else who was there. It was simply perfection.
And that was it, the crowd starting calling for more, a few rousing chants of Johnny, Johnny, Johnny F***ing Marr and back he came. This time not with just his band but he welcomed onto stage Robyn Hitchcock of Soft Boys fame. Robyn joined in on a wonderful version of Please Let Me Get What I want – without the twee John Lewis add version needed! Before joint Robyn in one of his own Tell Me About Your Drugs. Simply a brilliant moment.
We knew it was almost over but there was still time for a couple more songs. After a rather brilliant Little King it there was time for I Fought the Law – which was another cue for the crowd to go wild.
That left one song. Now amongst fans of the great man there is often debate about his very best Riff. Opinion is decided mainly between This Charming Man and one other song. Johnny Marr chose the other riff to play out with. How Soon Is Now was soon booming around the place, the master was doing what he does best. Nearly 8 minutes of the best guitar work I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. It simply was remarkable.
But sadly that was it, 500 punters over the moon, one legendary status maintained and a whole album to look forwards to soon. For me there was one final treat. I managed to obtain a setlist from the event signed by the great man himself. That will be soon taking pride of place in my apartment – where it will share a frame with my signed Elbow set from Glastonbury this year. So a huge thanks to Dave for helping me with that.
I can honestly say that this has now eclipsed the wonderful British Sea Power as my favourite ever Wedgewood Rooms gig. Apologies for the picture quality but I was too busy having fun to take loads of pictures to show me having that fun!