Johnny Marr at Leopardstown Racecourse, 7 August 2014

Leopardstown racecourse may be an untypical concert setting, but it actually works pretty well.  Proof of this is that the audience for Johnny Marr (seemingly an even split of Smiths/Marr fans and horseracing fans) is in great form on this summer’s evening.  Also, a presumably prescribed tight 90 minute set-time allows the artist to play a mixture of solo and project material along with plenty of crowd pleasing Smiths classics.

So, allowing ourselves just one horseracing cliché – ‘and they’re off’, as a trim looking Marr and his solid band kick off with the clean sounds of Upstarts, a brisk opening number, followed immediately by an instantly recognized Panic.   These two songs are a great start to the show, and the crowd respond enthusiastically to the former Smith, who manages to combine likeability with rock-star swagger.

Musically, he is as good as you would expect.  His vocals are workable, sounding tonight like a throatier Morrissey, plus his guitar chimes unerringly with all the jangly little chords, riffs and economic solos that we were hoping to hear from this most influential of players.  Musically, visually, song-wise — the influence is even more apparent at his live-show than on his albums, and it on tonight’s evidence it is easy to agree with the critics that without this man there would have been no Stone Roses or Arctic Monkeys.

Johnny and band continue to rip through a mixture of songs from his first solo album ‘The Messenger’ and the forthcoming follow up, of which the single Easy Money goes down best.  An epic Getting Away with It also builds nicely in its slot as second last song of the main set, rivalling the mid-tempo New Town Velocity as the strongest of the solo Marr tracks.

Naturally the biggest cheers are reserved for the Smiths songs and he plays them with passion and good humour, for example introducing Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before as a ‘an old folk song from Manchester’.

The most emotional song of the night though has to be set-closer There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and he encourages a sing-a-long chorus to develop in this performance which is resonating particularly strongly with anyone in the venue over the age of about 40. Obviously he realises how much those four Smiths albums meant to many who grew up in grey Irish or British cities in the early 80s.

The encore is quite long at 5 songs, opening with a slow Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want and also including an energetic cover of I Fought The Law (And The Law Won) before leaving us with How Soon is Now, as Johnny grinds out the famous slow-burning bendy riff.

We’ll wager (final racing motif!) he never have felt more at home at a gig – the man whose family came from Ireland’s biggest horse county (Kildare) playing Ireland’s biggest racecourse, and the feeling was mutual.

As the summer of 2014 begins to draw in, there won’t be many more outdoor shows as good as this one.