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Solid, but where was Morrissey?

Johnny Marr flicks through his new book. It's from one of his fans on the floor. He's delighted with it, too.

He will, however, change into a shirt that's been handed down from a bloke called Ger on the balcony. "Anyone else got any more gifts?" he asks. Doesn't look like it, Johnny – but might you have one for us? Because, according to Twitter, Morrissey is backstage. Warming up.

I won't lie – to hear the former Smiths' guitarist tap into the sounds of yesteryear with a rousing rendition of 1985's How Soon Is Now?, while a rumour circles the room of an impending Smiths reunion in Dublin ... well, it's a bit too much to bear. But that's all it is, really – a rumour.

Indeed, Johnny's got his own legion of loyal admirers to tend to. Released last month – 26 years after he and his bequiffed buddy went their separate ways – Marr's debut solo album, The Messenger, is the reason we're standing here. It's not bad; all punchy, melodic riffs and shout-along, indie rock refrains. Yet, next to a couple of Smiths' tunes (and a cracking cover of I Fought the Law), it's lacking a certain ... presence, shall we say. But hey, at least Marr is writing. Touring.



Stick him out in the smoking area of a nearby hipster joint and, chances are, with his skinny jeans, tight silver blazer and angular barnet, the bloke could easily pass for your cool uncle. The one that used to be in that band. He sure is an excellent guitarist, though. At 49, he's got more energy and enthusiasm than most players half his age. And don't interrupt him while he's telling a story. Marr's a funny bloke; a generous performer with an exceptionally tight band of musicians by his side. Rest assured, however, he'll shoot you down if you ever try to get in the way of a good yarn. Hence, Marr talks – the audience learns to listen.

It's not an astonishing gig. Instead, it's a reasonably solid set from the wiry Mancunian with a few magical moments sprinkled throughout.

An acceptable vocalist, Marr was never frontman material. But he does a decent impression of one that he used to know. There Is a Light That Never Goes out? Great closer. Now, I wonder where Morrissey got to on Wednesday night ... HHHII

>Chris Wasser