Marred

Last month Mrs Swiss and I went to see Johnny Marr at the Ritz (the Friday gig, first of two). We had a good night out, got out together (which doesn’t happen very often), had a few drinks, saw a living legend. I later tweeted…

‘Johnny Marr played the Ritz tonight. It was great. Crowd were a bit flat early on. Typical Mancs. Great encore. Cheers. Goodnight.’

Someone asked me recently if I enjoyed it and said I seemed a bit like I hadn’t. I did enjoy it- Johnny and the band were really good- the songs off the new album worked really well live and he played several songs I’ve been waiting two and half decades to hear him play (I never saw The Smiths). Second song in was London, one of my  favourite Smiths songs, and it rocked. He did Forbidden City, one of my favourite Electronic songs. Bigmouth. The encore included a great garage-y version of Getting Away With It, How Soon Is Now and finished with There Is  A Light. Other than The Queen Is Dead and Get The Message what more could I want?

What spoilt it a bit, as I think my tweet hinted at was the crowd and looking at the photo above it seems like there was absolute mayhem. The Ritz is a great venue, smallish, sprung dancefloor, good sound, bars on both sides. The crowd wasn’t all middle aged Smiths fans, but a mixture of those/us and younger folk. There is a problem at The Ritz that curfew is 10 pm because it turns into a nightclub afterwards, which means an early start, so less build up and expectation maybe. For the first few songs we stood two-thirds of the way back. In front of us were two couples. The two men talked to each other all the way through the songs, occasionally turning to look at the stage between songs and provide light applause. Their female partners watched the gig but these two youngish men (twenty something I guess) nattered all the way through. Between two songs I said (loudly) that there are good places for chattering, they’re called pubs, but it made no difference. Why would you spend £20 on a gig ticket and pay no attention to the performance. After a while we moved further forward, much nearer the stage where it was much better. Behind me then stood the tallest man in Manchester (and I’m not exactly a short arse), who filmed almost very song on his mobile phone, straight over the top of my head. Now I have been known to look at this type of footage on Youtube and often it’s a poor reminder of what a gig was like but sometimes it’s worth watching. Equally I’ve taken the odd photo. But filming something at length with your phone instead of watching it happen seems as daft as talking all the way through. You’re not in the moment. The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s tried to put their feet down about this recently, Jarvis Cocker made the same point and Ian Brown admonished people at Warrington Parr Hall last year for ‘making a film when you’re missing making a memory’.

I guess as well as the above, several gigs I’ve been to recently have been utterly memorable with complete audience participation and attention throughout- The Roses at Warrington was crazy from front-to-back, people almost in tears, dancing and complete elation, Justice Tonight and Half Man Half Biscuit (both at The Ritz) were full on, Heaton Park as well (and that was 70, 000 people in a field although admittedly I don’t know what it was like at the back). Sometimes Mancunian audiences can be a bit ‘arms folded, come on then impress us’ but Johnny Marr at a homecoming gig? So maybe I’ve been spoilt. I don’t go to enough gigs anymore to know for sure, certainly I don’t go to enough small gigs by up-and-coming bands. My brother-in-law says he won’t attend anything bigger than a few hundred now, as the atmosphere at anything bigger always suffers. It can’t be realistic to expect every show to be a life-changing spectacle, so maybe I should alter/lower my expectations. But audiences, and this is a familiar gripe I think, don’t always contribute positively and mainly need to put their phones away and shut the fuck up when people are playing.

The Draize Train (Live 1985)

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