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  JOHNNY MARR & THE HEALERS w/ Palo Alto and Film  
  The Masquerade  
  Atlanta, GA  
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It's hard watching your heros age and move on. I was big into The Smiths for a long time. Not that i ever played vegan or cut my hair like Morrissey, but i really like them. Specifically i think Johnny Marr is a damned fine guitarist. And now, after years of musical silence, he has released a new album and gone on tour. I will review the album later, but first let me talk about this show.

It was at The Masquerade, which it Atlanta's premiere metal venue. I guess -- i have no idea what they do there anymore. Well, they charge way too much for a beer ($4 for a PBR -- are you out of your mind???), and have crappy muddy sound that is high on the bass. Oh, and then there is the rave room downstairs, the throbbing beats of which reverb up through the floor and into your legs. The overwhelming presence of this beat makes everything surreal, as if you were living your life in some ultra-trendy car commercial.

However, to their benefit, The Masquerade did run this show along. I mosied in at 9:45, early by East Atlanta standards. The first band, called Film, were already playing. In fact, i think i missed half of their set, which is a shame because they were pretty good. They kind of remind me of The Stone Roses / Happy Mondays. You know, that whole loud silly dance rock stuff that we Yanks call "Madchester" but which Brits call "Baggy". In fact, the bassist was a tall stick-like guy who did that swaying walk/dance thing that Bez used to do. He even had a silly grin on his face the whole time.... I enjoyed their set (the half of it i saw) and thought that they were a pretty decent band. Derivative, but good fun nonetheless.

However, this set the stage for the next band: Palo Alto. I had heard, through my nefarious online soureces, that Palo Alto were a Radiohead-influenced band. Apparently this is a euphamism for "band that sounds as much like Radiohead as they can, including writing songs that involve similar chord progressions". I wasn't expecting a tribute band! They had songs that ripped off My Iron Lung and Stop Whispering, and these ones were pretty good. Some of their other derivative songs, the ones that aped Karma Police and The Bends, were so derivative that they just seemed wrong. For the most part, i sat through their set bored and wondering why they don't just cut to the chase and freaking cover Radiohead. But there were people in the crowd eating it up. I guess if you've never heard The Bends, Palo Alto might sound original.

After that atrocity ended it was only 10:05, and 2 bands had played! I was reeling in shock at the smooth timing and mentally mocking those poor fools who were doing whatever at The EARL, who would have 25 minutes at least until a band even started thinking about maybe playing. Wierd. I mean, who knew that metalheads ran a tight ship?

Johnny Marr and The Healers took the stage at 10:30 to thunderous applause from the 100 or so people there. They then proceeded to play material off of their new album Boomslang. I will review the disc at some point, but let me sum up for you: right now Johnny Marr wants to be revered as a Guitar God, like Clapton or Page or Stevie Ray Vaughn. Which means that The Healers wind up sounding to my ears like a derivative, Rolling Stones influenced band, the likes of which plague the Earth these days. (I am thinking here of The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, etc. etc. ad naseum). In all honesty i do not find this type of music too innovative, or interesting for the most part. In fact, from where i was standing (three rows into the crowd, about 7 feet away from Marr and with a good view of his fretboard) he wasn't even really trying. None of the guitarwork looked difficult to me. Granted, my guitar knowledge is very limited.

So it didn't look like Johnny was trying too hard to me. But he was singing, which shocked the bejeezus out of me when i first heard Boomslang. He doesn't have a bad voice really. He's no Morrissey, but he's not bad. He's not particularly good either. I would place Johnny Marr's vocal capabilities squarely in the category of average. His vocals did seem very appropriate for the type of Rawk! he is doing these days.

So: The Healers played early 21st century blues rock. It wasn't bad. In fact, a few of the songs were even really good. But no Smiths tunes (not that i expected any -- i hoped for them, but did not expect them), no versions of material from the two The The albums Johnny played on. Just 75 minutes worth of The Healers.

Which, quite frankly, bored me. I sat there wondering why i had even gone to this show. Sure, Johnny Marr is a personal hero, but he is trying to move on with his life, and i am just not "with" him anymore. I have moved on too, and while what he did in the 80's is an integral part of my past, what he is doing now underwhlems me.

So, after the last rocking out tune of the encore (which most decidedly did not contain a rousing, crowd-sung version of What Difference Does It Make?, like i had hoped against hope), i trudged out to my car and put in my old cassette copy of the British only compilation The World Won't Listen, and played Shoplifters of the World Unite as loud as i could.

It's hard watching your heroes age and move on.

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