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Second Coming

Johnny Marr + The Healers / Mellowdrone
Double Door
Chicago, IL
Jan. 28, 2003
Johnny Marr
Johnny Marr

Review and photos by Tony Bonyata

Last night guitar legend Johnny Marr took front and center stage with his new band The Healers. And while it may have been a far cry, at least in terms of musical style, from the groundbreaking work he laid down with his former band The Smiths in the '80s, Marr made great strides in shifting the focus from his previous musical accomplishments to a wellspring of new material, with Marr himself taking over the lead vocal duties.
Johnny Marr Despite the fact that his debut solo album Boomslang won't even hit the shelves until next week, it was no surprise that his show at the Double Door was a sell-out. This was, after all, the musical genius behind all of The Smiths' compositions. Even 16 years after the demise of that band, and without knowing exactly what his new music even sounds like, his audience was still there in droves to support him.
With a black matted shag and neatly topped in a pinstriped shirt, Marr, along with drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr's son), bassist Alonsa Bevan (from Kula Shaker) and guitarist James Doviak ripped through an energetic set that, understandably, leaned heavily on his new material from Boomslang - an album that successfully finds Marr stepping from a guitarist in the shadows to a frontman in the spotlight.
MellowdroneWith a cool, somewhat detached vocal delivery Marr proved that he could not only tackle the transition to lead singer, but also do so while still retaining his status as a bona fide guitar god. From the lip-smacking opening guitar strains laid down over the slinky rhythm of "Long Gone" to the muscular bump-and-grind implosions added to "Another Day," to his biting slide-work on "InBetweens," which also featured a foundation crumbling beat from Starkey, Marr, once again, had his audience in his sway. Only this time it was on his own terms, with a tight band and handful of hip, cocksure pop songs oozing with ballsy swagger.
While purposely distancing himself from his former band's material, Marr instead chose to add a stripped down, frail version of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," which he had previously released on a special Dylan tribute CD produced for Uncut magazine last year. And while this number offered a more sensitive insight to Marr, it was when the band hit high-gear on the hypnotic groove of "You Are The Magic" and the runaway train momentum of "The Last Ride" that showcased The Healers as the perfect vehicle for Johnny Marr's second coming.
Opening for Marr was the energetic talent of Mellowdrone (a.k.a. Jonathan Bates). With left leg swiftly keeping time like a jackrabbit in heat, the rail-thin singer/guitarist fidgeted in his chair between his musical gadgetry and his electric guitar, which, with a blasts of sonic dissonance, ripped gapping holes throughout many of his engaging, enigmatic numbers.
Accompanied by merely a drummer, Bates' passion bled from every pore as he tore through songs from his latest e.p. A Demonstration of Intellectual Property as if exorcising demons from the stage. With numbers that lightly hinted at Radiohead, such as "No More Options," and the Weezer-meets-Nirvana quirky punk of "And Repeat," Mellowdrone may finally be the true alternative answer for a new generation seeking fresh, innovative music. With mesmerizing songs played out with such believable verve and passion, you can be sure that this isn't the last you'll hear from this guy.

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