Story and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisWhen Johnny Marr and the Healers debuted in Chicago at the Double Door earlier this year, their record Boomslang hadn't hit stores yet nor had the group officially toured together before. Considering the band was still working out its kinks and the audience was yet to become familiar with the material, the evening was still very special for fans of The Smiths and a confirmation that the band's primary songwriter and guitarist is alive and well.
That pulse beat even more vibrantly come Marr and company's recent House of Blues appearance, who now with miles logged on the road and the record in stores presented a similar set as last time with an entirely new dynamic. Opening with "Long Gone," and moving on to "Caught Up" and "Here It Comes," Marr looked completely self-assured with his tunes and the crowd's ability to sing along this time through only boosted the band's energy level. Zak Starkey in particular went on a clearing house behind his drum kit, launching into the riotous assault of "All Out Attack," and the set's passion pinnacle "Need It."
Fans were also treated to Marr's cover of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright," which he transferred from the original folk howl into a tender acoustic sonnet. Such attention to detail also came on the live translation of current radio single "Down On the Corner," along with the equally ear catching "Bangin One" to close out the show with fluidity and vitality. Despite ending on that upsurge, it didn't cover over this session's main disappointment, which just like last time was Marr's ignorance of The Smiths' catalogue. Granted, he's no Morrissey in terms of vocal range or flamboyant presentation style, but fans were itching to hear at least one of that band's timeless classics, which had he obliged would have made the show a shoe in for one of the year's best.
Speaking of timelessness, openers Paloalto have clearly been studying some of the most transcendental acts of the past and present. Leaning heavily on the ethereal side of Radiohead, the British tint of Coldplay, and the underlying (though overly ambitious) desire of singer James Grundler to be Bono at times, the band's material was steady and palatable. With a new label home and a recently recorded project (titled Heroes and Villains) Paloalto was blessed with a second crack at the big time after unceremoniously being dropped due to its self-titled debut failing to attract radio attention. (That problem doesn't seem like it will recur thanks to the radio friendly flair of current cuts "Last Way Out," 'Breathe In" and "Fade In/Out"). If anything, Chicago's Marr fans took away Paloalto's desire to craft quality songs steeped in the human experience, that upon further investigation are quite capable of bringing the carpe diem out of even the most baggage ridden person.
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