One of the first things that came to mind before sitting down to listen to Johnny Marr’s live record was along the lines of: are live albums still a thing?
It’s not unfair to suggest that live albums are an endangered if not a dying art-form with infinite amounts of gig footage shared online every day.
Nevertheless, recorded during shows at Manchester, Glasgow and Brixton, Adrenalin Baby is Marr’s third solo release, following debut record The Messenger and quick follow-up Playland.
The NME-certified ‘Godlike Genius’ has taken his new band across the globe and has rave reviews to show for it.
Indeed, the live record may have suffered a decline in popularity over the last decade or so, but this album presents a compelling case for its return with flawless renditions of songs spanning across the former Smiths mans’ near 40 year career.
This said, even the most devout Marr fans will admit that the album is slow to get of the proverbial blocks.
Tracks Playland and The Right Thing Right are delivered with technical excellence as one would expect, yet fail to produce the impact that perhaps songs elsewhere in the set would have done so if performed earlier on.
Bigmouth Strikes Again being an example that comes to mind.
The could-be-better start is soon forgiven though as we are treated to New Town Velocity – a track from The Messenger with an arrangement so gorgeous it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Smiths LP at the peak of the band’s powers.
From there, Marr navigates effortlessly through an energetic set of tracks new and old.
The Wythenshawe-raised guitar hero’s involvement with bands like The The and The Cribs has meant that opportunities to perform older material have been few and far between since his divorce from Morrissey.
Because of this, live versions of The Headmaster Ritual and Bigmouth Strikes Again don’t feel at all clichéd and exhausted but sound just as fresh as they did upon release.
The shimmering jangle that placed Marr on the musical map takes centre-stage in underrated track and contender for song of the record Generate! Generate! before the album approaches its triumphant climax.
A brilliant extended version of electronic hit Getting Away With It and cover of The Clash’s I Fought The Law are highlights, but the record’s real high-points come in There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and How Soon Is Now?
The former is so haunting, so beautiful that it is quite possible that it will provoke an emotional response. Or that might just be…
Adrenaline Baby takes a short while to get into its stride but contains far too many incidents of technical brilliance and glorious nostalgia to be missed.
The Right Thing Right
New Town Velocity
The Headmaster Ritual
Back In The Box
Bigmouth Strikes Again
Boys Get Straight
Getting Away With It
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
I Fought The Law
How Soon Is Now?
Image courtesy of Roberto Taddeo, with thanks.