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